zoning and build permit info
Can someone provide a breakdown of zoning ratings(A-2, R-4,etc.), and what specifically is a medium slope or steep slope as it is listed in the mls description of properties? 6 degrees of grade is managable for building purposes, 60 is not (grin) Also, to anyone who has built: can you illuminate the process and permit requirements? How different are they from, say, Ohio's? Are zoning variances difficult or routine?
jnrhome-- The "Virgin ISlands Zoning, Building and Housing Laws and Regulations" handbook is 240 pages of small type. Pages 27-82 are filled with lists of the different zoning codes and the multiple types of use allowed for each of the 19 different codes. You can purchase a copye of this handbook at Government House for around $25.
The MLS descriptions of gentle, medium slope, steep slope, etc. are totally subjective to the realtor describing the land being listed. While you might use these descriptions to narrow the list of properties you will go to see in person, you definitely want to visit the site and walk as much of the land as you are able to access. In some overgrown/rainforest areas, there can be hidden features to the land buried by the vegetation so that you won't know just what you are buying until you clear the land. Rain run-off guts are an example of something you should be on the watch for. If one of these runs through the middle of your proposed building site, you might wind up with property you can't use as you intend. (If you build on STJ, you should plan to cope with a lot more slope gradient than if you build on STX!)
The permit process has some variations depending upon the location of the property involved. Land within a certain distance of the Caribbean is subject to CZM approval in addition to DPNR and architectural permits. People going through the USVI permit process for the first time would generally be wise to find a local who knows the ropes to walk them through it. This might be an engineer with the right relationships developed at DPNR, etc. to help you avoid mistakes that can greatly slow down your project.
Do not mistake this for saying you need to bribe someone. You will need an engineer involved in your project to approve designs at some point anyway. Develop a friendly relationship with one and he can provide you with a lot of the information you need to move through the process successfully. If you need other professionals along the way, your engineer will probably have several suggestions of people he has a good working relationship with to keep the process somewhat seamless.
The difficulty of receiving a variance in zoning is going to depend upon what it is you're trying to do. If you can make a case for the usefulness and value of a project and for its appropriateness to the location intended, you might stand a chance. But no guarantees.
Sometimes permits and approvals are OK'd in just days and sometimes they take months and months. Always take extreme care to ensure that any paperwork and applications you submit are filled out completely and correctly. The offices are allowed a certain number of days to let you know if your paperwork is complete or if it is missing some information. Once you are deemed to have a complete application, then they get more time to decide if your request will be approved or if you will need to provide scientific studies or other information to support your request.
Do everything possible TO NOT OFFEND ANYONE in a decision making position.... including someone who has to pass your request on to someone who makes the decision... or who makes the appointment for you, etc. Show respect at all times. Even if nothing makes sense. The wielders of power feel the need to put that power to use now and then and you want to be on their good side so the power can be used for you instead of against you.
Maybe you can find a local builder who can give you a comprehensive list of offices and applications you will need along the way, plus some practical advice about what types of variances are likely to be accepted or rejected.
Best of luck with your project!
jnrhome: Some of your questions lead me think that you should spend some time in the VI researching life in general. As an unincorporated territory, this is so far from anything that exists in Ohio! You will really want to be sure that this is the place for you before you get involved in buying and building. Just my very HO.;)
Alexandra- Please don't misunderstand my posts. I've been there before and realize that there are substantial differences between here and there. In an effort to focus my planning, i'm just looking for info that helps define what is possible for us. The fact is, info online is sketchy at best and gov't info is virtually nonexistent.I've found the board to be far more informative and as such, some posts are mental meanderings as much as real ideas. Additionally, I am asking things under certain circumstances that I think should be posted here so anyone in my situation would be better informed. My first visit was business, but it put me in many of the same situations I would have to deal with in moving there such as shipping and customs. THAT was quite the eye-opener and a sharp lesson in be nice, have paperwork, hope for the best, pay extra, pay even more extra, get no explanations, do it all again, then wait as patiently as you can! Believe it or not, i've gotten more info from you directly in a couple weeks than several years of googling. As such, my questions have been more frequent. I can see where you might think I'm biting off more than I realize; rest assured, I have a good idea of what i'm in for! :-]
My apologies Alexandra. That last one should have been directed to east ender, not you.
I figured you were responding to me! 😉
1."info online is sketchy at best and gov't info is virtually nonexistent"
Yes, you are correct. Even when you live here, government info is difficult to find. As you probably discovered, you can't just pick up a phone and talk to someone in a government agency. You really have to go down to the office, visit face-to-face. That is the nature of the VI.
2, "some posts are mental meanderings as much as real ideas."
I think a lot of our posts are meanderings. It is tough to explain how life is here. Maybe we give a little background to the experience? Warnings to the unwary?
I guess in order to get your questions about slope answered, you might want to visit with an architect or knowledgable contractor who has worked in the VI for some time. Again, that *specific* info would be difficult to research on line.
@Alexandra_Marshall I’m glad you posted here that you can purchase the book! I have no idea if anyone knows for sure but if you built high enough ceilings and wanted to have a loft area, does that count as a second floor and need to have 15 vs 10 gallons of water for cistern capacity requirements? I have been trying to Google Search with no luck so maybe I should just buy the book ?????
LexisNexis provides free public access to VI laws (and most other jurisdictions as well). Sorry that the link is so long, but it should take you to the VI code...
Title 29 contains both the zoning (chapter 3) and building (chapter 5) codes.
It also indicates that it's updated as of late 2018, so it should be pretty current.