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Monday, October 3, 2022


Details of the deal between Jeffrey Prosser and the V.I. government to exchange 1,000 acres at Carambola for 30 years of tax breaks for Prosser's Innovative Communications Corp. should be made public within days, a top Government House official has disclosed.
"It is still being discussed and analyzed," James O'Bryan said Thursday. "The numbers are still being crunched."
O'Bryan said the administration should make a statement by Wednesday, April 21. When asked for a document or a copy of the Prosser proposal, O'Bryan said it was still in the works.
The Daily News, which Prosser owns, reported April 1 that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull would hold a news conference within days to discuss the terms of Prosser's offer to "bail out the V.I.," as the headline declared. That never happened.
Central Labor Council president Luis "Tito" Morales said Wednesday that he still has not seen the proposal, even though it is intended to satisfy most of the overdue retroactive pay owed to unionized government employees.
Morales said the Prosser deal was raised in a meeting April 6 with Turnbull but the governor said it was not an appropriate subject to be discussed then since they were gathered to announce the deferral of government workers' paychecks due Thursday, April 8.
Shortly after the Daily News announced the Prosser-V.I. bailout, Morales said the employees he spoke with indicated they wanted "money, not land."
Since no documentation has been provided about the deal by the administration or ICC, some community activists have expressed concern about which 1,000 acres Prosser intends to give the government in exchange for what the Daily News estimated as $180 million worth of tax breaks.
Prosser is in the process of buying 2,800 acres at Carambola in St. Croix from George M. Jacobus, who bought that property plus another 1,200 acres in 1983 from a Rockefeller partnership. Prosser reportedly is paying less than $30 million for the 2,800 acres.
"We hope the governor and his advisers are looking at the fact that at least 1,000 acres of the Carambola property was set aside for scenic preservation," said St. Thomas environmentalist Helen Gjessing."
Gjessing pointed out an act passed in 1983 to rezone the Carambola property — then known as Fountain River — provided for a scenic and preservation easement of at least 1,000 acres.
"The problem is, no one knows what thousand acres" Prosser plans to give the V.I. government as part of his bailout plan, Gjessing said.
The 1983 act said the dozens of rezonings were "expressly subject to the condition that Delray Land Inc., its successors and assigns, shall establish 'open space' in an amount not less than 50% of the total area consisting of 4,140 acres, more or less….of which not less than 1,000 acres shall be dedicated to a perpetual scenic and preservation easement."
Cattle rancher Hans Lawetz, who has been leasing land for cattle grazing on the Carambola property, said he was aware of the easement agreement but echoed Gjessing in saying he didn't know which thousand acres was set aside.
Lawetz added, "I think Mr. Prosser is aware of the easement."
Environmentalist Olasee Davis called for a public hearing with Prosser and the Legislature "before anything is done in terms of developing the area to let the public know what is going on."
"We should also have a town meeting," Davis said. "People are ignorant of how extremely emotional this issue is because of the history of the area. There is a Danish slave road and caves where slaves hid. If you don't do that — let people know about the history — you'll have a social problem."
Davis said the whole north side of St. Croix is full of history.
"I think Mr. Prosser is doing some good things for the community, but we have to preserve our cultural heritage," Davis said.
Attorney Andrew Simpson, former chairman of the St. Croix Environmental Association, said he thought the property would have to be rezoned in order to subdivide and build on it.
"Prosser would have to go for rezoning, as I read the act," Simpson said, adding that he did not speak for SEA but only as an attorney who was familiar with zoning issues.
Ed Crouch, spokesman for Prosser's companies, did not return phone calls to his office.

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