May 24, 2004 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull "approved" a bill passed by the Legislature last month to purchase the Vessup and Muller Bay beachfront properties on St. Thomas's East End but vetoed the funding source specified, Government House announced on Monday.
Turnbull line-item vetoed the funding, "which is the interest earned on debt service reserves" because that interest "has already been obligated to meet expenses of the General Fund," a release issued late Monday afternoon stated.
The Senate on April 26 unanimously approved the bill, which appropriates $3 million from the interest earned on the reserves. The measure was amended on the Senate floor also to appropriate $1.5 million from the interest to the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department for development and rehabilitation of Great Pond on St. Croix.
Turnbull also line-item vetoed the Great Pond appropriation.
The Vessup vote came after three months of intensive lobbying by the Red Hook Alliance, a grass-roots community organization opposed to the proposed sale of the land surrounding Vessup Beach to a mainland private developer. (See "Senate Unanimously Passes Vessup Beach Bill".)
In his transmittal letter to Senate President David Jones, Turnbull said: "I fully support all efforts to acquire various historic, scenic and recreational sites and properties in order to preserve them for present and future generations. Therefore I am pleased to report that the developer has expressed an interest in providing continued public access to the beaches. This will be finalized in the Coastal Zone Management permitting process."
The governor did not identify the developer but further stated: "Additionally, we are in the process of purchasing the Lindqvist Beach property." He did not elaborate.
In March 2003, V.I. Investments, whose owners are Don Rifenberg and Edwin Padgett, purchased the Lindqvist property from The Cove at Smith Bay. Last December, the owners and Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett clashed over new fencing on the property that cut off public access to the beach. DPNR began assessing the company fines; then, under an agreement reached with DPNR, V.I. Investments opened the fence gate. The agreement, both sides said, was that the owners would comply with DPNR's order to restore public access to the beach in return for the government halting the fines, which by then totaled $260,000. V.I. Investments subsequently went to court challenging the validity of the Notice of Violation it received in December and, thus, of the fines.
The governor "acted on several bills prior to his departure from the territory," the release issued late Monday afternoon stated. The release did not say where he was going, when he left or when he is expected to return.
He also vetoed "regrettably" a bill designating quadrille as the official dance of the Virgin Islands, saying the bill's language was too restrictive and infringed upon the prerogatives of the non-public schools to determine their own curricula. "Once the language is amended, I will approve the bill," he said.
Turnbull told Jones he had approved bills naming a Visitors Bureau facility by The West Indian Co. dock on St. Thomas "the John E. McCleverty Visitor Bureau" and naming the main road in the Estate Fortuna/Bordeaux area of the island between the Police Department/Fire Service substation and the Blue Water Crest Community for Daisy Robelta Bough.
The governor also approved rezoning measures for St. Croix and St. John, except for several plots in Estate Grove Place on St. Croix. He said DPNR opposes the rezoning of the plots "because development of this property will impact upon the natural flow of water from the hills to the lower-lying areas of Estate Grove Place.
"There is a possibility that flooding or pooling of water on the properties or adjacent ones will occur," he told Jones. "In addition, the mandatory setback requirements of septic tanks and drainage fields may not be in compliance with the law."
The governor also "acknowledged and applauded" resolutions honoring the late Gerald E. Hodge Sr. and asking the United Nations and the World Health Assembly to facilitate Taiwan's efforts to participate in both organizations.
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