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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesEast End Residents Vow Fight Over Vessup Beach

East End Residents Vow Fight Over Vessup Beach

Red Hook Community Alliance founder Andrea King (left) helps unfurl the group's banner.Angry East End residents and supporters showed up at Vessup Bay Tuesday night, shocked that they may have lost their beach in an omnibus bill passed during a late November Senate session.

Leading the meeting was Andrea King, board director/founder of the Red Hook Community Alliance, which organized a petition drive and an email protest campaign. The 2004 Vessup Law gave the government the right to purchase the land from a private developer, Lionstone Hotels and Resorts (now Lionstone Development), and preserve it as a public community park through the power of eminent domain.

Since then, the government has never taken any action to purchase the land, citing a lack of funds. The eminent domain purchase law was repealed on Nov. 22 in an omnibus bill supported by Senate President Louis Hill, who was the original sponsor of the Vessup Bay preservation bill.

In response to the Senate’s move, Bruce Lazar, executive vice president of Lionstone Development, stated, “We are very pleased that the Legislature took the action it took. It held our land hostage for over six years without any action.”

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Lazar added, “We are very responsible developers. We develop historical and environmentally friendly properties. We certainly wouldn’t stop beach access.”

Lionstone also owns contiguous property, including the nearby marina, which was not subject to the eminent domain legislation. “We plan to revitalize the whole area,” said Lazar.

Supporters of the repeal state that it was unacceptable to hold Lionstone in limbo any longer and that the development will make a cleaner and more pleasant beach. Their opponents say it will take away the character of a beach that is historically cherished by locals for its relaxed atmosphere. It is a popular Sunday destination for family picnics, and parties with music and a weekday favorite with dog walkers.

Sen. Craig Barshinger spoke to the crowd, saying that that he was willing to introduce new Vessup legislation “with a timeline and some teeth in it,” and to search for a definite source of funding to replace the $3 million from the original bill, which has been reprogrammed.

Barshinger said he might propose a St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund. He also said that the people who put the repeal into the omnibus bill “knew very well what their purpose was” and, in an appeal for transparency, asked the senators and governor on behalf of the protestors: “Don’t you believe in us as people?”

Gov. deJongh has stated that if a viable funding source was identified, he would support the acquisition of the property. Hill has explained that the goal of setting up a public space on the East End of St. Thomas had been accomplished with the government purchase of Lindqvist Beach.

Meanwhile King is looking into funding sources, and noted the possibility of working with the Trust for Public Land in the Virgin Islands. She spoke of learning that neither she nor anyone involved with the original legislation had received any notice about the proposed bill.

“When I found out, I thought I would faint. I was appalled that this could happen without a single phone call.” Since the repeal, she has called Hill and deJongh several times and says she has not received a response from either of them.

Margot Bachman, who has lived in the Vessup Bay area for 45 years, said, “This has always been a wonderful beach to have. I can bring my dogs, and it is rather deserted during the week.”
In response to Sen. Hill’s explanation that the public space goal was accomplished by the government’s purchase of Lindqvist Beach, she said “ It might be a good idea for Sen. Hill to come out and take a look and see that Lindqvist Beach is not that close to Vessup Beach.”

Another longtime resident, Margit Kanstrup, who has used Vessup Beach for 43 years, said she didn’t think it was a good idea to develop Vessup. “This island is getting so congested. People don’t come here to go to Miami Beach. They come here for the tropical lushness. There are certain senators who will vote for any development.”

The Save Vessup Beach petition is available online.

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Red Hook Community Alliance founder Andrea King (left) helps unfurl the group's banner.Angry East End residents and supporters showed up at Vessup Bay Tuesday night, shocked that they may have lost their beach in an omnibus bill passed during a late November Senate session.

Leading the meeting was Andrea King, board director/founder of the Red Hook Community Alliance, which organized a petition drive and an email protest campaign. The 2004 Vessup Law gave the government the right to purchase the land from a private developer, Lionstone Hotels and Resorts (now Lionstone Development), and preserve it as a public community park through the power of eminent domain.

Since then, the government has never taken any action to purchase the land, citing a lack of funds. The eminent domain purchase law was repealed on Nov. 22 in an omnibus bill supported by Senate President Louis Hill, who was the original sponsor of the Vessup Bay preservation bill.

In response to the Senate’s move, Bruce Lazar, executive vice president of Lionstone Development, stated, “We are very pleased that the Legislature took the action it took. It held our land hostage for over six years without any action.”

Lazar added, “We are very responsible developers. We develop historical and environmentally friendly properties. We certainly wouldn’t stop beach access.”

Lionstone also owns contiguous property, including the nearby marina, which was not subject to the eminent domain legislation. “We plan to revitalize the whole area,” said Lazar.

Supporters of the repeal state that it was unacceptable to hold Lionstone in limbo any longer and that the development will make a cleaner and more pleasant beach. Their opponents say it will take away the character of a beach that is historically cherished by locals for its relaxed atmosphere. It is a popular Sunday destination for family picnics, and parties with music and a weekday favorite with dog walkers.

Sen. Craig Barshinger spoke to the crowd, saying that that he was willing to introduce new Vessup legislation “with a timeline and some teeth in it,” and to search for a definite source of funding to replace the $3 million from the original bill, which has been reprogrammed.

Barshinger said he might propose a St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund. He also said that the people who put the repeal into the omnibus bill “knew very well what their purpose was” and, in an appeal for transparency, asked the senators and governor on behalf of the protestors: “Don’t you believe in us as people?”

Gov. deJongh has stated that if a viable funding source was identified, he would support the acquisition of the property. Hill has explained that the goal of setting up a public space on the East End of St. Thomas had been accomplished with the government purchase of Lindqvist Beach.

Meanwhile King is looking into funding sources, and noted the possibility of working with the Trust for Public Land in the Virgin Islands. She spoke of learning that neither she nor anyone involved with the original legislation had received any notice about the proposed bill.

“When I found out, I thought I would faint. I was appalled that this could happen without a single phone call.” Since the repeal, she has called Hill and deJongh several times and says she has not received a response from either of them.

Margot Bachman, who has lived in the Vessup Bay area for 45 years, said, “This has always been a wonderful beach to have. I can bring my dogs, and it is rather deserted during the week.”
In response to Sen. Hill’s explanation that the public space goal was accomplished by the government’s purchase of Lindqvist Beach, she said “ It might be a good idea for Sen. Hill to come out and take a look and see that Lindqvist Beach is not that close to Vessup Beach.”

Another longtime resident, Margit Kanstrup, who has used Vessup Beach for 43 years, said she didn’t think it was a good idea to develop Vessup. “This island is getting so congested. People don’t come here to go to Miami Beach. They come here for the tropical lushness. There are certain senators who will vote for any development.”

The Save Vessup Beach petition is available online.