Whether Caneel Bay Resort is repaired and ready for business by 2019 after the damage inflicted on it by Hurricanes Irma and Maria depends on what Congress does about extending Caneel’s lease, according to the V.I.’s Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett.
Plaskett said the Retained Use Estate agreement held by Caneel is set to expire in five years.
Without a new agreement resort managers will have a hard time securing the finances needed to fund repairs and renovations, the delegate said.
“The timeframe for the expiration of the RUE has become even more significant, given the destruction Caneel Bay sustained from Hurricane Irma,” Plaskett said in a news release issued late last week.
In October 2010 Congress authorized Public Law 111-261, allowing talks to begin between Caneel Bay owners and the park service.
Efforts to renegotiate the RUE were underway when the two catastrophic storms struck in September. Given a new sense of urgency brought on by the need to rebuild, the delegate introduced Bill No. 4731 to the House Committee on Natural Resources in December. The measure was passed along to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands on Jan. 2.
If the lease is renegotiated it will help resort owners obtain needed financing and also allow Caneel to provide NPS with monthly payments under the lease.
That developed brought an optimistic response from one resort executive.
“I know this bill is going through,” said Caneel Bay Marketing Manager Patrick Kidd. “The House Committee on Natural Resources green lighted it and moved it down to the subcommittee on federal lands. It is essential to the owners who want to start the rebuilding of Caneel Bay Resort,” Kidd said.
Plaskett said she expects the subcommittee will schedule a discussion of the matter in the weeks to come. The sooner the better, she said. Caneel’s annual contribution to the local economy is estimated at $65 million. About 400 resort workers, now laid off, are awaiting the call to return.
“Given the urgency for Caneel to find capital post-storm, and recognizing the impact potential closure of the resort would have on the V.I. economy, I have introduced a bill that would extend the RUE and would require Caneel to provide payments to the federal government for use of the land. My office has had conversations with the committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate about the issues pertaining to Caneel Bay, and leadership in the House is also aware of the matter,” the delegate’s news release concluded.
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