78.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Dear Source,
. After reading your article on this subject, and Hila Babin's letter in the Open Forum section, I could not stop myself from writing on this subject. Hila Babin states the owners of the Lindqvist Beach "did not research the law here regarding public beaches." Your article on this subject quotes Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd as stating "we have an access law that prohibits anyone from denying access to the public beaches." These persons have either never read the Virgin Islands Open Shorelines Act at Title 12 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 10 or, if they have, they do not understand it. The Open Shorelines Act does not make the beaches of the Virgin Islands "public".
An owner of waterfront property in the Virgin Islands has title to his property to the line of mean high tide. The Open Shorelines Act defines the "shorelines of the United States Virgin Islands" as the area from the low tide line inland for a distance of 50 feet or to the first line of natural vegetation, "whichever is the shortest distance." The Act provides that the public shall have the "right to use and enjoy" this defined shoreline area, and prohibits all persons from obstructing access within this defined shoreline area. The Open Shorelines Act does not in any way grant the public the right to cross private property in order to access this shoreline area. If the Act did purport to create public access in that fashion it would most likely be declared an unlawful taking of private property without compensation, which is prohibited by the Virgin Islands Revised Organic Act and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Lindqvist Beach could be the showpiece of a territorial park system, however the government must pay for it just as the current owners paid for their ownership interests. The public acquisition of Lindqvist Beach is a favorite lip service topic for elected officials of our government. Unfortunately, along with other non-essential matters such as the education of our children and adequate sewage treatment, this has a lesser priority than providing free SUV's and cell phones to our legislators, and "consulting" contracts to former members of the executive branch.
The dispute concerning the new fence at Lindqvist Beach only relates to whether the owners were required to obtain a permit for the fence construction. That dispute will be determined by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and perhaps the courts if an appeal is taken. The dispute does not implicate the Virgin Islands Open Shorelines Act. I submit that Ms. Babin should take her own advice and "research the law." As for Senator Liburd's remarks, it is regrettable that those persons elected to make the laws do not take the time to read the laws.
John H. Benham
St. Thomas

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