As property owners in Mandahl Estates, we are writing to express our opposition to the proposed development of the Mandahl Bay area. We believe the proposal will have a negative impact on the environment, benefits a few at the expense of many, and violates the terms of the original grant. Additionally, it has a negative impact on those whose property is adjacent to the development.
Mandahl Bay is one of the few remaining marine environments on St. Thomas that retains its quiet, natural beauty. With its mangrove-ringed lagoon and coral reefs, it is home to many plants and animals that will be endangered or destroyed by further development. The beach itself, while beautiful in its current rocky state was once a lovely sand beach…that has already been destroyed by the construction of the levee allowed by the existing lease. That destruction speaks directly to the harmful effects of further development in the area.
Until the present time, St. Thomians have been able to enjoy Mandahl Bay as one of the few areas on island without commercial development. The proposed project will close the area to easy access by the Virgin Islanders who call St. Thomas home. The project will benefit a few developers who don’t live on St. Thomas at the expense of local residents. The property was given to the people of the Virgin Islands and should continue to be used for and by the people of the Virgin Islands.
When the property was originally granted to the Virgin Islands government by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the documents specified that the land was to be used for “educational and related community purposes only.” Not only does the proposed lease for commercial development violate the terms of this original agreement…the current lease violates that agreement. The current lease should be terminated, or at least allowed to expire without renewal since it was illegal to start with. To continue or extend the lease robs the people of the Virgin Islands of natural resources and educational opportunities that cannot be replaced should the development be allowed.
Beyond that basic violation of the people’s rights, the proposed development will provide low-paying jobs, many of which are likely to go to workers brought in from elsewhere. To compete in the Caribbean’s tourist industry, St. Thomas must be cautious about over-development. With plans for other large commercial developments proposed for elsewhere on St. Thomas, Water Island, and St. John, where does it stop? If people can not find a quiet place to relax on vacation, a place to enjoy the natural beauty of the island, or a peaceful place to call home, they will choose to go elsewhere and undercut one of the prime sources of income for our people.
We purchased our property precisely because of the peaceful nature of the north side of the island and specifically the Mandahl Bay area. Those who live in the area appreciate the natural beauty of their surroundings and the quiet characteristic of the neighborhood. It is our sincere hope that the government of the Virgin Islands will stop this proposed development and save Mandahl Bay for the people of the Virgin Islands.
Catherine Von Hatten and Mike Von Hatten, St. Thomas
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