Rainforest Adventures confirms it is still awaiting planning permit

POSTED: 02/10/12 1:48 PM

If it does not happen before hurricane season I don’t know”

St. Maarten – Rainforest Adventures’ chief engineer John Dalton has warned that if government does not issue a permit for their project soon, it may not happen at all. This was made clear in a conversation ahead of a town hall meeting on the project the company wants to build in St. Maarten.

“We have spoken to Vrom as recently as today (Thursday) and what we concluded is that if we do not need the monument permit, we will be able to move faster. We were really supposed to be six months into construction already, and if it does not happen before hurricane season I don’t know. For example we sought permits in Alaska and that took so long we never built there,” Dalton said.

Though he would not give an ultimate date for when the developer would decide that they can no longer wait for a response on their request, Dalton did indicate that something needs to happen before at least the beginning of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season in June. Rain Forest Adventures is expecting to start work in Rio de Janeiro by then.

“We’ve already requested permits there and if we start construction there I don’t know what will happen here,” Dalton said.

During the town hall meeting Henry Brookson, who owns half the property, called the project a good solution for the country.
“I think the solution we have now is good for St. Maarten and I stand behind these plans,” he said.
Later he’d add, “We envision something nice and beautiful like Loterie Farm.”

If this project does not move forward roughly 60 jobs will be lost and the island will miss out on the exposure that comes with being part of the list of destinations attached to the RainForest Adventures brand.

Lingering concerns

Environmental and heritage organizations remain concerned about the project and have expressed concern that several permanent structures like bathrooms and a deck will be built at the summit of Sentry Hill. They view this as a clear violation of the hillside policy, which stipulates that no permanent structures can be built above the 200 meter mark. There are also questions about government’s plans to purchase 50 percent of the estate. A slide in Dalton’s presentation states government will purchase 23 percent of the estate.

There is also a lingering concern about what will happen to the Emilio Wilson Park once the 30 year long lease granted by the now deceased Wilson expires. In a mini-discussion with Vice-President of the St. Maarten Pride Foundation Rueben Thompson, Brookson gave verbal assurances that the park, “will always remain open to the public.” Dalton also committed to maintaining the park by having a crew of staffers from their attraction do regular maintenance work and committing to paying $1 per visitor to help with tree planting. The latter will be done with school children who will get 50 percent discounts on tickets if they participate in the tree planting.

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