Expansion Plans for Hibiscus Beach Hotel Stir Debate in St. Croix Community



The serene tranquility of LaGrande Princesse in St. Croix is at the heart of a spirited community debate over the proposed expansion of the Hibiscus Beach Hotel. Destroyed by Hurricane Maria, the hotel’s revival plans have met with opposition from neighboring property owners, raising concerns over potential flooding issues.

The Coastal Zone Management Commission’s St. Croix Committee convened on Thursday to scrutinize the developers’ application for the hotel’s third phase. This ambitious project aims to enrich the property with 62 additional rooms, alongside new amenities including a bar, gym, restaurant, and swimming pool. The proposal also highlights environmental initiatives such as beach replenishment, the expansion of green spaces, and the installation of sophisticated drainage systems to combat the area’s flooding challenges.

Significantly, the development plan promises to enhance public beach access, featuring a newly designated parking space without impeding entry. Clarence Browne, the project’s architect, emphasized the commitment to maintaining open access and taking protective measures for the local turtle population.

Addressing stormwater concerns, engineer Damien Cartwright presented a pollution prevention strategy, boasting stormwater storage capabilities exceeding current requirements. These efforts, he argued, are part of a larger, necessary flood mitigation strategy that demands broader administrative action.

However, skepticism among locals persists. Attorney Curt Otto, representing concerned neighbors, criticized the plan for not adequately addressing the long-standing water management issues, suggesting that the development might exacerbate them. Otto highlighted the community’s frustration with the area’s inadequate infrastructure, particularly the overstretched sewage system, and called for comprehensive solutions before proceeding with new developments.

Despite these concerns, Alicia Barnes, representing the hotel, pointed to the government’s approval for a new wastewater system as a step forward, arguing that resolving territorial issues should not fall solely on developers.

Community members, including Mitch Graham and Elizabeth Kleisch, voiced their apprehensions about the project’s implications for local sewage management and public beach access. Graham recounted personal experiences of flooding exacerbating sewage problems, while Kleisch lamented the potential loss of traditional beach access points, fearing it would limit public enjoyment of one of the island’s prime beaches.

In response, Marlon Hibbert, the Coastal Zone Management Director, assured attendees of the thoroughness of the review process, emphasizing ongoing oversight to address community concerns throughout the project’s lifespan.

With the public comment period open until next Thursday, the St. Croix community awaits a mid-April decision on the future of the Hibiscus Beach Hotel’s proposed expansion, a project at the intersection of development aspirations and environmental stewardship.

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