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Judge To Rule On Golden Lawsuit Within A Week

Feb. 20, 2009 — V.I. Superior Court Judge Francis D'Eramo said Friday he would issue a ruling within seven days on a lawsuit contending developer Paul Golden's Coastal Zone Management permit for his planned resort hotel and casino by St. Croix's Great Pond has expired.
The Virgin Islands Conservation Society, which brought the suit, has been fighting Golden's Coastal Zone Management permit in court for several years. The legal wrangling has played out as follows:
– Golden applied for his CZM permit and waited for all of 2004 for action by the CZM committee.
– January 2005: the Board of Land Use Appeals (BLUA) granted the permit by default due to the CZM's failure to act.
– February 2005: The society filed suit in V.I. Superior Court seeking to block the CZM permit. VICS attorney Andrew Simpson argued, among other things, that BLUA did not have jurisdiction to make the decision and the environmental assessment done by Golden was insufficient.
– When the suit came before the court, Judge Maria Cabret ruled in favor of Golden Gaming. VICS filed a writ of review in Superior Court in 2005. It asked the court to review BLUA's decision to grant Golden a coastal zone permit.
– May 2006: Cabret upheld the permit and VICS appealed.
– December 2007: An appellate panel upheld the project's major CZM permit as issued by BLUA, but directed the CZM board to make further findings of fact in the case. According to Simpson, after CZM makes those findings, the case will return to the Appellate Division or potentially to V.I. Superior Court, to determine the merits of VICS's objections to the permit.
– March 2008: the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision. (See: "Court Nixes Challenge to Golden's Zoning, Permits.")
VICS contends, in part, the CZM permit issued to Golden Resorts on Jan. 12, 2005, expired one year later because Golden Resorts did not obtain an extension of the permit from the St. Croix CZM Management Committee or the Commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources.
"By statute, only one or the other may grant an extension," Simpson said.
Golden's attorney, Adriane Dudley, said Golden had an extension from the BLUA, as it was told to do by CZM, then read part of a letter from CZM's attorney to Golden instructing him to refer all matters regarding the permit to BLUA.
"Of course you know we gave up our right to appeal or dispute anything further on this permit and because of that, we defer to the BLUA on matters regarding this permit," Dudley read from the letter.
Simpson said the letter was irrelevant.
"The CZM attorney cannot waive CZM rights," he said. "The statute is clear. All Mr. Golden had to do is go to CZM and ask for one (extension). If it were denied there is an appeal process."
Dudley countered Golden should not be punished for doing as he was told.
"What is Mr. Golden supposed to have done?" she asked. "He has a permit that says he must go to the issuing body for an extension. The issuing body was the BLUA. He has a letter from CZM saying he is to go to the BLUA. He can't be held liable by the government for doing what he was told to do by the government."
As to the one-year deadline, Dudley said the statute begins the one-year clock from the moment all appeals are concluded.
"We all know the appeals process is not completed here," she said.
Dudley allowed that the statute governing the process was poorly written, making its interpretation problematic, which prompted D'Eramo to interject.
"In fact, the judge specifically mentioned the statute was poorly written in the appellate ruling," he said.
D'Eramo said he would not be ruling from the bench, but would issue a ruling by Feb. 27.
As proposed, Golden's resort would be more than a half-million square feet, with 400 ocean view rooms and more than 100 time-shares surrounding the large central pool. Total investment would run to several hundred million dollars.
In addition to a 25,000-square-foot casino, plans call for 16 spa treatment rooms, a full-size fitness area, a 294-acre golf course, tennis courts, four restaurants and 1,200-seat conference center. If built, this last component would be owned by and jointly operated with the V.I. government. It would be financed by the government with $32 million in bonds from the V.I. Public Finance Authority.
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Feb. 20, 2009 -- V.I. Superior Court Judge Francis D'Eramo said Friday he would issue a ruling within seven days on a lawsuit contending developer Paul Golden's Coastal Zone Management permit for his planned resort hotel and casino by St. Croix's Great Pond has expired.
The Virgin Islands Conservation Society, which brought the suit, has been fighting Golden's Coastal Zone Management permit in court for several years. The legal wrangling has played out as follows:
- Golden applied for his CZM permit and waited for all of 2004 for action by the CZM committee.
- January 2005: the Board of Land Use Appeals (BLUA) granted the permit by default due to the CZM's failure to act.
- February 2005: The society filed suit in V.I. Superior Court seeking to block the CZM permit. VICS attorney Andrew Simpson argued, among other things, that BLUA did not have jurisdiction to make the decision and the environmental assessment done by Golden was insufficient.
- When the suit came before the court, Judge Maria Cabret ruled in favor of Golden Gaming. VICS filed a writ of review in Superior Court in 2005. It asked the court to review BLUA's decision to grant Golden a coastal zone permit.
- May 2006: Cabret upheld the permit and VICS appealed.
- December 2007: An appellate panel upheld the project's major CZM permit as issued by BLUA, but directed the CZM board to make further findings of fact in the case. According to Simpson, after CZM makes those findings, the case will return to the Appellate Division or potentially to V.I. Superior Court, to determine the merits of VICS's objections to the permit.
- March 2008: the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision. (See: "Court Nixes Challenge to Golden's Zoning, Permits.")
VICS contends, in part, the CZM permit issued to Golden Resorts on Jan. 12, 2005, expired one year later because Golden Resorts did not obtain an extension of the permit from the St. Croix CZM Management Committee or the Commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources.
"By statute, only one or the other may grant an extension," Simpson said.
Golden's attorney, Adriane Dudley, said Golden had an extension from the BLUA, as it was told to do by CZM, then read part of a letter from CZM's attorney to Golden instructing him to refer all matters regarding the permit to BLUA.
"Of course you know we gave up our right to appeal or dispute anything further on this permit and because of that, we defer to the BLUA on matters regarding this permit," Dudley read from the letter.
Simpson said the letter was irrelevant.
"The CZM attorney cannot waive CZM rights," he said. "The statute is clear. All Mr. Golden had to do is go to CZM and ask for one (extension). If it were denied there is an appeal process."
Dudley countered Golden should not be punished for doing as he was told.
"What is Mr. Golden supposed to have done?" she asked. "He has a permit that says he must go to the issuing body for an extension. The issuing body was the BLUA. He has a letter from CZM saying he is to go to the BLUA. He can't be held liable by the government for doing what he was told to do by the government."
As to the one-year deadline, Dudley said the statute begins the one-year clock from the moment all appeals are concluded.
"We all know the appeals process is not completed here," she said.
Dudley allowed that the statute governing the process was poorly written, making its interpretation problematic, which prompted D'Eramo to interject.
"In fact, the judge specifically mentioned the statute was poorly written in the appellate ruling," he said.
D'Eramo said he would not be ruling from the bench, but would issue a ruling by Feb. 27.
As proposed, Golden's resort would be more than a half-million square feet, with 400 ocean view rooms and more than 100 time-shares surrounding the large central pool. Total investment would run to several hundred million dollars.
In addition to a 25,000-square-foot casino, plans call for 16 spa treatment rooms, a full-size fitness area, a 294-acre golf course, tennis courts, four restaurants and 1,200-seat conference center. If built, this last component would be owned by and jointly operated with the V.I. government. It would be financed by the government with $32 million in bonds from the V.I. Public Finance Authority.
Back Talk


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