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HomeNewsArchivesCLUB COMANCHE BOARDWALK SPAT UNDECIDED

CLUB COMANCHE BOARDWALK SPAT UNDECIDED

Until a District Court judge issues a decision on whether or not to grant a restraining order to a Christiansted hotelier, work on the downtown boardwalk extension will continue.
Mary Boehm, manager of the Club Comanche Hotel, and the V.I. government were in District Court Judge Raymond Finch’s courtroom Monday, wrangling over who owns a small portion of land that fronts Christiansted Harbor at the rear of the hotel.
The long-awaited completion of the boardwalk project depends upon the resolution of the ownership dispute. A restraining order would mean work on the project would be stopped until the issue is resolved.
If the government is allowed control of the land, which is not much larger than a basketball court, Boehm and the hotel’s ownership group could see a substantial reduction in the $4.5 million asking price for the hotel property because it would no longer front the water.
Club Comanche attorney Bethaney Vazzana argued that over many decades, the Danish, V.I. and federal governments viewed the entire parcel of land, plot 40, as private property. She pointed to two cases where property owners on either side of Club Comanche were granted ownership to the water’s edge.
But because of old Danish plot boundaries the Department of Public Works in the 1980s reassessed the size of properties off Strand Street and determined the plots to contain less land area between the street and sea. The V.I. government contends that the remaining land—in the Comanche’s case it is called plot 40-A —down to the sea is public property.
Vazzana also argued that the government’s claim is a taking of private property without just compensation, a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
"Forty-A was unilaterally carved out, a little piece with the mill and dinghy dock," Vazzana said. "Our title rights have always been honored by the government until now.
"The plaintiff’s position is that by building the boardwalk it cuts off . . . the ability to use the sea, unless there is some accommodation made," she said. "We have no intention of stopping the boardwalk, we just want our rights protected."
The accommodation Vazzana referred to is an easement that the parties have been trying to agree on since last July. If it cannot be agreed upon, she said Club Comanche ownership would agree to a lease.
"We thought we were going to enter into this thing nine months ago," said Club Comanche co-counsel Jay Isherwood. "All the government needs to do is agree to the easement."
But Assistant Attorney General Richard Prendergast said the granting of an easement would admit the plaintiff's title to the property while a lease would admit that the government owned the property.
"One party doesn’t want the lease and one party doesn’t want the easement," Prendergast said.
Meanwhile, Club Comanche attorneys argued that the government’s reassessment of the lot size is flawed because it translated the Danish plot surveys incorrectly. Vazzana said that translating the Danish word "til" to mean "toward" the sea rather than "to" the sea mistakenly cut the property off short, while a correct translation makes the sea the boundary.
But Prendergast downplayed the importance of the definition and focused on the fact that the property in question was constructed by the Danes using fill-dirt hundreds of years ago. Therefore, under the 1974 Territorial Submerged Lands Act, the property was reclaimed from the sea and belongs to the government.
"The merits of the case don’t come down to the definition of the Danish word 'til,' " he said. "The undisputed fact is, Plot 40-A is reclaimed land."
Finch, who toured the property Monday afternoon, said the case should have been "massaged" so that work on the boardwalk could have continued while the title issue was resolved.
"If I’m forced to consider injunctive relief . . . that project might be held up for quite some time. I don’t think that would be in the best interest of either side," he said. "This controversy should have been massaged to allow the boardwalk to continue and the title issues [to be] settled."
After touring the site, Finch said he would take the issue under advisement and issue a decision in the near future.
Work on the boardwalk was in full swing as Finch was visiting the property. The downtown harbor-side walkway was to have begun in mid-October after the active part of hurricane season passed. But a spate of storms, including Hurricane Lenny, pushed the project back until mid-December. The $1.7 million project is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and is expected to take six months. The contractor is R&R Caribbean.
The project is currently in its first phase and will extend the existing boardwalk from where it ends in King’s Alley 1,450 feet west toward the Holger Danske Hotel. Phase 2 would extend the boardwalk from the Holger Danske to the seaplane building near Watergut. A Government House official has said the design for the second phase is about 90 percent complete and close to the point of submitting it for funding.

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Until a District Court judge issues a decision on whether or not to grant a restraining order to a Christiansted hotelier, work on the downtown boardwalk extension will continue.
Mary Boehm, manager of the Club Comanche Hotel, and the V.I. government were in District Court Judge Raymond Finch’s courtroom Monday, wrangling over who owns a small portion of land that fronts Christiansted Harbor at the rear of the hotel.
The long-awaited completion of the boardwalk project depends upon the resolution of the ownership dispute. A restraining order would mean work on the project would be stopped until the issue is resolved.
If the government is allowed control of the land, which is not much larger than a basketball court, Boehm and the hotel’s ownership group could see a substantial reduction in the $4.5 million asking price for the hotel property because it would no longer front the water.
Club Comanche attorney Bethaney Vazzana argued that over many decades, the Danish, V.I. and federal governments viewed the entire parcel of land, plot 40, as private property. She pointed to two cases where property owners on either side of Club Comanche were granted ownership to the water’s edge.
But because of old Danish plot boundaries the Department of Public Works in the 1980s reassessed the size of properties off Strand Street and determined the plots to contain less land area between the street and sea. The V.I. government contends that the remaining land---in the Comanche’s case it is called plot 40-A ---down to the sea is public property.
Vazzana also argued that the government’s claim is a taking of private property without just compensation, a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
"Forty-A was unilaterally carved out, a little piece with the mill and dinghy dock," Vazzana said. "Our title rights have always been honored by the government until now.
"The plaintiff’s position is that by building the boardwalk it cuts off . . . the ability to use the sea, unless there is some accommodation made," she said. "We have no intention of stopping the boardwalk, we just want our rights protected."
The accommodation Vazzana referred to is an easement that the parties have been trying to agree on since last July. If it cannot be agreed upon, she said Club Comanche ownership would agree to a lease.
"We thought we were going to enter into this thing nine months ago," said Club Comanche co-counsel Jay Isherwood. "All the government needs to do is agree to the easement."
But Assistant Attorney General Richard Prendergast said the granting of an easement would admit the plaintiff's title to the property while a lease would admit that the government owned the property.
"One party doesn’t want the lease and one party doesn’t want the easement," Prendergast said.
Meanwhile, Club Comanche attorneys argued that the government’s reassessment of the lot size is flawed because it translated the Danish plot surveys incorrectly. Vazzana said that translating the Danish word "til" to mean "toward" the sea rather than "to" the sea mistakenly cut the property off short, while a correct translation makes the sea the boundary.
But Prendergast downplayed the importance of the definition and focused on the fact that the property in question was constructed by the Danes using fill-dirt hundreds of years ago. Therefore, under the 1974 Territorial Submerged Lands Act, the property was reclaimed from the sea and belongs to the government.
"The merits of the case don’t come down to the definition of the Danish word 'til,' " he said. "The undisputed fact is, Plot 40-A is reclaimed land."
Finch, who toured the property Monday afternoon, said the case should have been "massaged" so that work on the boardwalk could have continued while the title issue was resolved.
"If I’m forced to consider injunctive relief . . . that project might be held up for quite some time. I don’t think that would be in the best interest of either side," he said. "This controversy should have been massaged to allow the boardwalk to continue and the title issues [to be] settled."
After touring the site, Finch said he would take the issue under advisement and issue a decision in the near future.
Work on the boardwalk was in full swing as Finch was visiting the property. The downtown harbor-side walkway was to have begun in mid-October after the active part of hurricane season passed. But a spate of storms, including Hurricane Lenny, pushed the project back until mid-December. The $1.7 million project is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and is expected to take six months. The contractor is R&R Caribbean.
The project is currently in its first phase and will extend the existing boardwalk from where it ends in King’s Alley 1,450 feet west toward the Holger Danske Hotel. Phase 2 would extend the boardwalk from the Holger Danske to the seaplane building near Watergut. A Government House official has said the design for the second phase is about 90 percent complete and close to the point of submitting it for funding.