SENATORS TO HEAR BEAL LAND SWAP ISSUE ON FRIDAY

The Senate has scheduled a Committee of the Whole hearing for Friday on Beal Aerospace's land swap proposal.
The hearing will take place at 5 p.m. in Frederiksted.
Under the proposal, the government will swap 14.8 acres of land in Estate Great Pond, which includes historical sites, with Beal for 14.8 acres in Whim and Grange Hill. Beal will use the Great Pond land for a parking lot for its proposed rocket factory and offices.
Beal is looking to build its seven-acre world headquarters and assembly plant on some 300 acres near Great Pond Bay.
The issue had been set to be heard in the Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection on the same day. But in a letter to Senate President Vargrave Richards on Thursday, Sen. Adelbert Bryan said he disagreed with the decision to assign the issue to the committee and requested a Committee of the Whole meeting instead.
In his letter to Richards, Bryan said the exchange agreement between the government and Beal requires the entire Legislature to review the proposal. Assigning the issue to the committee, he said, keeps non-members from having "true and full participation in the process" and promises a "long and drawn-out process of having the proposal moved from committee to committee…"
The League of Women Voters of the V.I. questioned the legality of the swap this week. In a letter to Richards, Erva Denham, president of the League, said the land was deeded to the government in 1974 by the late Frank Wiesner for the sole purpose of becoming public park land.
In her letter, Denham said the land swap could cause individuals who are considering donating land to the government to reconsider.
"If this property is transferred . . ., the basic covenants of this deed of gift will be broken, and some dangerous precedents will be set," she wrote
Denham also said that included in the language of the exchange agreement sent to the Senate by Gov. Charles Turnbull is a variance that rezones the acreage from waterfront pleasure to industrial. Denham contends such language circumvents the standard rezoning process, which calls for public hearings.
Turnbull, however, supports the swap.
"I believe this project will be a great benefit to the territory and St. Croix in particular, and it will increase job opportunities for our people," Turnbull wrote in a letter to Richards.
"Without this exchange, the Beal Aerospace project cannot go forward," Turnbull wrote. "The appraisals have confirmed the value of the parcels to be exchanged is favorable to the government."
A Committee on Government Operations hearing on the service level of the Water and Power Authority, scheduled to take place on St. Croix Friday evening, has been moved to 10 a.m, Friday.

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