A protracted legal battle between a St. Croix hotel developer and a conservation group has ended — for now — with a judge’s ruling. The attorney representing developer Paul Golden said there may be more to come for the plan to increase the island’s number of hotel rooms and to promote gaming on the big island.
The ruling came April 9 from the appellate division of V.I. District Court, in favor of Golden. Andrew Simpson, the lawyer representing the opponent in the case — the St. Croix Conservation Society — noted that the appeals court ruled in 2020 but first considered the case nine years ago, in 2011.
Simpson said his client may also have an interest in taking their fight further, but for now it’s not a sure thing. “I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with my client,” he said.
The named defendant in the case is the Board of Land Use Appeals. The Conservation Society filed a civil action against the board, after they sided with the government entity that granted a permit to Golden by default.
Attorney Treston Moore, representing Golden, said “It’s always been understood that Golden won because of the St. Croix [Coastal Zone Management Board’s] failure to hold a decisional meeting (within the required time) after the ruling on the permit was made. It went up to the Board of Land Use Appeal and BULA said you didn’t make the decision in time.”
After that, Moore said, the Conservation Society took its case to Superior Court where Judge Maria Cabret declared the permit valid. From there, the case went to the appellate division on a writ of review.
At the heart of the legal battle is the future of Great Pond Bay, a prized environmental site and home to the island’s second largest salt pond. In the early 1990s the Department of Planning and Natural Resources declared the site one of 18 Areas of Particular Concern.
Such areas were designated based on natural resources, recreational use, cultural importance, mineral resources or hazards present on the site. Environmentalists on St. Croix mounted opposition to Golden’s Gaming’s plans to build a six-story hotel and casino on 297 acres in Estate Great Pond.
Now that appellate judges have published their ruling, Simpson raised the prospect that a development may proceed. Golden lost the property to foreclosure but the permit is, “in the hands of a hedge fund that lent him the money,” Simpson said. “I think they’re still hoping to use the permit.”
Moore declined further comment on the matter, saying he would have to consult with his client prior to making a statement.