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VIPA Board Opposes Bournefield Residents’ $1-Purchase Plan

A Senate proposal that could allow Estate Bournefield residents to purchase their rental units for $1 was opposed Wednesday by the V.I. Port Authority board, whose members discussed other possibilities for the site, including a parking garage and warehouse facilities.

The Port Authority serves as landlord for the 43-unit housing community on St. Thomas, which officials have said is a “health hazard” due to repeated flooding and sewage problems.

VIPA has said Bournefield was only intended to function as temporary housing, but tenants in the area have fought for the right to stay – most recently in 2010, when the authority announced they were going to evict all the residents within a four-month period.

The agency revised its plans in the wake of public outcry and said it would work to fix some of the units while gradually relocating the tenants through attrition.

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Bournefield residents spoke out while appearing before the Senate on Jan. 14, and asked for the right to own the rental units that some of them have lived in for decades.

In response, Sen. Celestino White Sr. said he had drafted (but not yet introduced) a proposal that would allow the tenants to purchase the units for $1.

At Wednesday’s VIPA board meeting, members said that such a bill would not be in the best interest of the Port Authority.

This would also violate its agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires that the property be used for airport purposes, they said.

The board also discussed a draft lease agreement for Bournefield tenants that would run retroactively from Oct. 1, 2011 until Sept. 30, 2016. After that, the agreement allows no option to renew.

“In no event shall the Port Authority be prohibited from commencement of eviction proceedings against any tenant who fails to meet the rental obligation as indicated in the lease,” the draft document said.

The lease also says that any Bournefield tenant that owns another home on St. Thomas would not be granted a lease agreement and would be required to vacate their Bournefield unit no later than one year after the formal adoption of VIPA’s new policy.

The board did approve the draft lease Wednesday, but members said that they would still wait on the outcome of the Senate’s bill, which has not been formally introduced.

No firm plans have been made for the site, but VIPA Executive Director Kenn Hobson said that one possibility is turning the property into parking spaces for rental cars, since there are limited spaces available at the airport. Another possibility is putting up more warehouse space, he said.

Board members present during Wednesday’s meeting were Robert O’Connor, Beverly Nicholson Doty, Gordon Finch, Vincent Frazer, Darryl Smalls and Yvonne Thraen.

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A Senate proposal that could allow Estate Bournefield residents to purchase their rental units for $1 was opposed Wednesday by the V.I. Port Authority board, whose members discussed other possibilities for the site, including a parking garage and warehouse facilities.

The Port Authority serves as landlord for the 43-unit housing community on St. Thomas, which officials have said is a “health hazard” due to repeated flooding and sewage problems.

VIPA has said Bournefield was only intended to function as temporary housing, but tenants in the area have fought for the right to stay – most recently in 2010, when the authority announced they were going to evict all the residents within a four-month period.

The agency revised its plans in the wake of public outcry and said it would work to fix some of the units while gradually relocating the tenants through attrition.

Bournefield residents spoke out while appearing before the Senate on Jan. 14, and asked for the right to own the rental units that some of them have lived in for decades.

In response, Sen. Celestino White Sr. said he had drafted (but not yet introduced) a proposal that would allow the tenants to purchase the units for $1.

At Wednesday’s VIPA board meeting, members said that such a bill would not be in the best interest of the Port Authority.

This would also violate its agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires that the property be used for airport purposes, they said.

The board also discussed a draft lease agreement for Bournefield tenants that would run retroactively from Oct. 1, 2011 until Sept. 30, 2016. After that, the agreement allows no option to renew.

“In no event shall the Port Authority be prohibited from commencement of eviction proceedings against any tenant who fails to meet the rental obligation as indicated in the lease,” the draft document said.

The lease also says that any Bournefield tenant that owns another home on St. Thomas would not be granted a lease agreement and would be required to vacate their Bournefield unit no later than one year after the formal adoption of VIPA’s new policy.

The board did approve the draft lease Wednesday, but members said that they would still wait on the outcome of the Senate’s bill, which has not been formally introduced.

No firm plans have been made for the site, but VIPA Executive Director Kenn Hobson said that one possibility is turning the property into parking spaces for rental cars, since there are limited spaces available at the airport. Another possibility is putting up more warehouse space, he said.

Board members present during Wednesday’s meeting were Robert O’Connor, Beverly Nicholson Doty, Gordon Finch, Vincent Frazer, Darryl Smalls and Yvonne Thraen.