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HomeNewsArchivesEAST SUPPORTS PUBLIC ACQUISITION OF LINDQVIST

EAST SUPPORTS PUBLIC ACQUISITION OF LINDQVIST

Dec. 13, 2003 – The Environmental Association of St. Thomas went on record Friday as supporting efforts by the V.I. government to acquire the privately owned Lindqvist Beach property, which has been caught up in controversy for several weeks over public access issues.
"Beach access has long been at the top of our list of concerns," EAST's president, Carla Joseph, wrote in a letter to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett. "We support protecting our natural resources for the purposes of both conservation and recreation. We believe that Lindqvist should be preserved for the use and benefit of the community."
On Friday afternoon, community activist Jason Budsan called WVWI Radio to say he had seen while driving by that the gates on a new fence on the property had been opened. Passersby on Saturday also saw that the gates were open and that "no trespassing" signs were prominently posted.
The V.I. Daily News on Saturday quoted Plaskett as saying that by agreement with the property owner, the Planning and Natural Resources Department ceased assessing the fines as of Friday, when the gates were opened, but that the company was still responsible for $260,000 in fines already accumulated. Lawyers for the company, V.I. Investments, earlier disputed the figure along with the point in time at which the fines could legally have kicked in.
Joseph told Plaskett that EAST was "particularly troubled" by plans announced by the owners at a Tuesday press conference for a 24-home development on the 21-acre beachfront property. These plans "are in direct contradiction to a previous minor [Coastal Zone Management] permit submitted to DPNR for construction of only two private homes on the property," she said. "With the unveiling of this new development proposal, EAST's concerns that the developer would try to 'back-door' permit approvals for a subdivision by submitting piecemeal permit applications appear to be justified."
Last month, DPNR officials told V.I. Investments that a new chain-link fence blocking public entrance to the beach had to come down, and Plaskett imposed a fine of $10,000 a day until it did.
At the Tuesday press conference, lawyers and two V.I. Investments officials, Don Rifenberg and Edwin Padgett, accused Plaskett of either being "misguided" or engaged in "political mugging." They said the new fence was a partial and legal replacement of another erected in 1989.
Joseph in the EAST letter stated that "the earlier fence also was erected illegally and [was] in direct violation of a restraining order issued by Territorial Court Judge [Ive] Swan in the early 1990s." She added that "until this beach is under the protection of the government or a conservation-minded organization, we cannot rest" on the issue of improper development.
She also said that the EAST board "wishes DPNR could take a similar interest in the protection of and access to Botany Bay." In September 2002, over the protests of environmentalists and against the recommendation of its staff, the St. Thomas CZM Committee approved a major permit for development of a resort and time-share complex on 68 acres along the Botany Bay beachfront. The pristine area on the western tip of St. Thomas has had restricted public access for three decades.
As far as the Lindqvist Beach site, Attorney General Iver Stridiron has said that papers to initiate the process to acquire the property by eminent domain are ready to be filed as soon as the government comes up with the money to compensate the owners at fair market value. Government officials have said that the Public Finance Authority is seeking to provide the funding out of bond proceeds.
It is EAST's position "that the best use of the Lindqvist Beach property would be to preserve it as a public park and recreation area for the people of the Virgin Islands in perpetuity," Joseph wrote Plaskett. "In this regard, EAST fully supports the V.I. government's efforts" to acquire the land "and manage it in a manner similar to how the Magens Bay park area is maintained by the Magens Bay Authority or as part of a more comprehensive territorial park system."
The government estimates the value of the property at $2.3 million. The new owners paid $3.1 million for it in May. Last year, the Legislature appropriated $3.5 million for the government to purchase the land when it was on the market; Gov. Charles W. Turnbull signed the measure into law, but nothing became of it because the appropriation was of money the government didn't have.
V.I. Investments submitted a motion to Plaskett demanding that DPNR rescind the notice of violation of CZM regulations that was the basis of the accumulating fines and seeking an immediate hearing on the alleged violations. Plaskett said on Friday that he had rejected the motion and was doubling the fine to $20,000 a day. (See "DPNR rejects Lindqvist Beach owners' demand".)
The property owners' appeal of the fines is scheduled for Jan. 18 before a hearing examiner agreed to by both the company and DPNR.

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Dec. 13, 2003 - The Environmental Association of St. Thomas went on record Friday as supporting efforts by the V.I. government to acquire the privately owned Lindqvist Beach property, which has been caught up in controversy for several weeks over public access issues.
"Beach access has long been at the top of our list of concerns," EAST's president, Carla Joseph, wrote in a letter to Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett. "We support protecting our natural resources for the purposes of both conservation and recreation. We believe that Lindqvist should be preserved for the use and benefit of the community."
On Friday afternoon, community activist Jason Budsan called WVWI Radio to say he had seen while driving by that the gates on a new fence on the property had been opened. Passersby on Saturday also saw that the gates were open and that "no trespassing" signs were prominently posted.
The V.I. Daily News on Saturday quoted Plaskett as saying that by agreement with the property owner, the Planning and Natural Resources Department ceased assessing the fines as of Friday, when the gates were opened, but that the company was still responsible for $260,000 in fines already accumulated. Lawyers for the company, V.I. Investments, earlier disputed the figure along with the point in time at which the fines could legally have kicked in.
Joseph told Plaskett that EAST was "particularly troubled" by plans announced by the owners at a Tuesday press conference for a 24-home development on the 21-acre beachfront property. These plans "are in direct contradiction to a previous minor [Coastal Zone Management] permit submitted to DPNR for construction of only two private homes on the property," she said. "With the unveiling of this new development proposal, EAST's concerns that the developer would try to 'back-door' permit approvals for a subdivision by submitting piecemeal permit applications appear to be justified."
Last month, DPNR officials told V.I. Investments that a new chain-link fence blocking public entrance to the beach had to come down, and Plaskett imposed a fine of $10,000 a day until it did.
At the Tuesday press conference, lawyers and two V.I. Investments officials, Don Rifenberg and Edwin Padgett, accused Plaskett of either being "misguided" or engaged in "political mugging." They said the new fence was a partial and legal replacement of another erected in 1989.
Joseph in the EAST letter stated that "the earlier fence also was erected illegally and [was] in direct violation of a restraining order issued by Territorial Court Judge [Ive] Swan in the early 1990s." She added that "until this beach is under the protection of the government or a conservation-minded organization, we cannot rest" on the issue of improper development.
She also said that the EAST board "wishes DPNR could take a similar interest in the protection of and access to Botany Bay." In September 2002, over the protests of environmentalists and against the recommendation of its staff, the St. Thomas CZM Committee approved a major permit for development of a resort and time-share complex on 68 acres along the Botany Bay beachfront. The pristine area on the western tip of St. Thomas has had restricted public access for three decades.
As far as the Lindqvist Beach site, Attorney General Iver Stridiron has said that papers to initiate the process to acquire the property by eminent domain are ready to be filed as soon as the government comes up with the money to compensate the owners at fair market value. Government officials have said that the Public Finance Authority is seeking to provide the funding out of bond proceeds.
It is EAST's position "that the best use of the Lindqvist Beach property would be to preserve it as a public park and recreation area for the people of the Virgin Islands in perpetuity," Joseph wrote Plaskett. "In this regard, EAST fully supports the V.I. government's efforts" to acquire the land "and manage it in a manner similar to how the Magens Bay park area is maintained by the Magens Bay Authority or as part of a more comprehensive territorial park system."
The government estimates the value of the property at $2.3 million. The new owners paid $3.1 million for it in May. Last year, the Legislature appropriated $3.5 million for the government to purchase the land when it was on the market; Gov. Charles W. Turnbull signed the measure into law, but nothing became of it because the appropriation was of money the government didn't have.
V.I. Investments submitted a motion to Plaskett demanding that DPNR rescind the notice of violation of CZM regulations that was the basis of the accumulating fines and seeking an immediate hearing on the alleged violations. Plaskett said on Friday that he had rejected the motion and was doubling the fine to $20,000 a day. (See "DPNR rejects Lindqvist Beach owners' demand".)
The property owners' appeal of the fines is scheduled for Jan. 18 before a hearing examiner agreed to by both the company and DPNR.

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.