Sen. Barshinger's views on property taxes on land on St. John are like a breath of fresh air to a drowning man. Protect the poor from the rich is needed. The present tax on land on St. John robs the poor, who are unable to finance improvement, and only benefits the rich who can afford the increasing price of land on St. John. We should have no tax on the land itself; just tax the improvements built on the land. A poor farmer with many children would always be able to pass unimproved land to his children. A tax on the farmer's land eats into what he can pass on. By the time they inherit the land, all they will have to show for it is the paid receipts from the tax office.
Let the market set the price. Improvements would increase the land value. A "Rule of Thumb" is: " Buy vacant land at a low price. When a neighbor builds on his land, the cost of land in the neighborhood goes up. You can then sell and make a profit "
When I was a youngster on St. Thomas, land was $10 an acre. Beach land had no value. You couldn't grow crops on it. You could have a picnic during the day. After five o'clock the sand flies drove you out. As improvements, hotels were built and open beaches were hard to find. They all became private property, charging for the privilege of putting your foot on the property. Legislation enacted made mandatory open beaches for all beach front property, 20 feet above the high water mark. Thank goodness for that law. Any Virgin Islander may swim where he pleases. Access to the beach by fencing the inshore land and cutting off access to beaches is still, as I understand it, not settled. Take Lindquist Beach for an example, is it open to the public due to the "Grandfather Clause," or is it controlled by the Coastal Zone law? New owners are being faced with this question.
Jack M. Monsanto
Hilton Head Island, S. C
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