Public meeting about hillside conservation areas – Planners propose golf course and theme park in Middle Region

POSTED: 02/25/13 12:15 PM

St. Maarten – The Ministry of Vromi held its second public meeting about the hillside conservation areas on Thursday evening at the university – ten months after the first meeting in April of last year. Among the new ideas are a 150,000 square meters golf course in Middle Region annex to a historical theme park.

During the first meeting participants urged the government to preserve green hills for landscape, nature and recreation and tourism. They also asked protection for the island’s remaining caves and the old phosphate mines on Billy Folly Hill. At the same time, people expressed the wish to keep sufficient space for residential development. Lastly, they asked for clear regulations for the construction of retaining walls and for runoff water.

Thursday’s meeting was the next step in the process; the planners are now going back to the drawing board to set up a preliminary draft development plan for the hillside conservation areas. This plan will be presented at a third public meeting. Then Vromi will finalize the draft development plan. When this is ready it will be put up for public review and pass through the hands of an advice committee of experts. At the end of that process the development plan will be final.

One of the topics Vromi project leader Thijs Sommers, Royal Haskoning project leader Mariska Ruiter and Minister William Marlin touched upon on Thursday evening was the unique value of Geneve Bay. This little mentioned area is situated roughly halfway between Pointe Blanche and Guana Bay. It is a place where the marina park borders on a hillside area. The area warrants “enhanced protection” because of the neighboring high value marine environment. There are many species of endangered cacti on the hills and the area is also home to St. Maarten indigenous plants. It is the last coastal area on St. Maarten that has not been built upon. Still, the planners propose to allow “limited development” for the purpose of preserving “most of the area.”

The planners propose to take the lower part of the Emilio Wilson estate out of the hillside conservation areas and to consider it part of Cul de Sac. A drawing of the estate shows a plot of 6 hectare where low density residential construction will be allowed. Reservations are foreseen for green and landscaping and for small scale agriculture and education. Structures with heritage value will be preserved.

In the public park – what is now the Emilio Wilson Park – the planners propose to preserve structures of heritage value by the principle of “conservation through development.” Under this principle the previous government would have allowed the development of the Rainforest Adventure Park. In this area space will be reserved for the construction of Link 7 “with a 30 meter width for further detailing of the alignment.”

The higher parts of the estate will remain a hillside conservation area with a nature designation.

The Belvedere Plantation located in a corner enclosed by the Bishop Hill Road and the Oyster Pond Road will also be taken out of the hillside conservation areas and will be considered a part of Middle Region. Here the planners propose to develop the Belvedere Plantation complex into a historical theme park of 120,000 square meters. Right next to it is a reservation of 150,000 square meters, possibly for the construction of a gold course.

The planners furthermore showed the first drawings of a map with possible alignments for tunnels to improve the east-west connection – among others from the future roundabout in Cole Bay at the end if the Simpson Bay Lagoon causeway to the L.B. Scott Road.

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