74.9 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, February 2, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesVessup Funding Veto Sparks Action on Several Fronts

Vessup Funding Veto Sparks Action on Several Fronts

May 26, 2004 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's veto of the funding source proposed to acquire the Vessup Bay beachfront property is having an immediate impact on the community. Both government and private sector leaders have taken steps to counter or at least review the governor's action.
Andrea King, Red Hook Community Alliance president, called an emergency meeting of the organization for 6 p.m. Wednesday on the Marlin Deck at American Yacht Harbor to discuss possible next steps in the fight to preserve the beach from development. King hopes once again to rally residents to petition the senators to stick to their guns. The alliance collected about 2,400 signatures on an earlier Save Vessup Beach petition.
The Legislature on April 26 unanimously passed a bill calling for government purchase of the beachfront property and appropriating $3 million from the interest earned on debt service reserves for doing so. The governor on Monday announced that he had vetoed the funding portion of the legislation, saying the interest earnings are already committed for General Fund expenditures
Miami-based Lionstone Hotels and Resorts recently purchased land at Cabrita Point and Muller Bay. Lionstone's owner, Alfredo Lowenstein, has a contract to purchase 16 more acres of land surrounding Vessup Bay beach by June 23.
According to the online Timeshare Beat, an industry newsletter, Lionstone wants to build timeshare villas at Vessup Bay that "would be similar to those at the nearby Ritz-Carlton Club, which Lionstone also intends purchase."
The alliance wants the government to purchase the bayfront property using eminent domain and then to preserve it in perpetuity as a natural area with public access.
Meantime, Sen. Lorraine Berry on Wednesday asked Senate President David Jones to call a Committee of the Whole meeting to hear testimony on the funding issue.
"We were told the money is there, and now we are told it isn't there," Berry said. "I am in full support of the government owning Vessup Beach, but I want it to be real."
Berry said she asked Jones "to call the meeting as soon as possible," and that "he told me he was thinking along the same lines."
Berry said she supports government acquisition of the land, "but we need to know what's available. Being emotional and saying we are going to override the veto doesn't buy the land. Sen. Hill indicated monies were available, but the governor has said the money isn't there."
Also, she said, "We need to call Kenneth Mapp and find our what's there." Mapp is director of finance and administration for the Public Finance Authority. "If there isn't enough money in the interest earned on debt service [reserves], we need to identify another source."
Hill said later in the day it was Mapp who told him the money is available. "I have met with the governor, Mapp and Nathan Simmonds," the governor's director of fiscal and economic recovery implementation, he said.
"I don't know what Sen. Berry is talking about," Hill continued. "The money becomes available every fiscal year, about $4 million. What the governor uses the money for is what's up for question. The governor doesn't think Vessup is a priority; that is his position, and I understand that. We just have a difference of opinion."
Hill continued: "The money is available for fiscal year 2005. The Legislature is the one that is supposed to set the priorities and the spending plan for the government. If the Legislature wants to use the money to purchase Vessup, than the Legislature has a right to do that."
He said he hopes Jones will call a full session soon for a vote on the override.
Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Emmett Hansen II have said they will support an override of the governor's veto. Other senators could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Hansen said that Hill "is absolutely right. The money is there; it is a matter of priorities. The Legislature is supposed to establish those priorities, not the executive branch."

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.