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Monday, July 22, 2024


In a move that surprised supporters and opponents of the Beal Aerospace-V.I. government land-exchange agreement alike, Gov. Charles Turnbull allowed the bill approving the swap to become law without his signature.
In his transmittal letter Tuesday to Senate President Vargrave Richards, Turnbull said he didn’t sign the bill because of an amendment that changed the name of the company that would receive the land.
"My original legislation would have ratified an agreement between the government and Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc.," wrote Turnbull. "However, the bill was amended on the floor to change the name to Caribbean Space Technologies, LLC. There needs to be conformity in the name of the entity in both the act and the exchange agreement."
On Oct. 5 the Legislature approved the land-swap bill that was originally submitted by former Gov. Roy Schneider but supported by Turnbull. The agreement allowed Texas-based Beal to acquire 14.5 acres of public land, once the home of the Camp Arawak youth camp, for a portion of its parking lot. The lot will accompany Beal’s proposed $57 million world headquarters and rocket-assembly plant near Great Pond Bay.
In exchange for the Camp Arawak land, the government would receive acreage Beal owns in Estates Whim and Grange Hill.
According to the Legislature’s legal counsel, the Senate-approved bill was sent to Government House on Oct. 13. The governor had 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. His action, or non-action, Tuesday came on the ninth day.
Although Turnbull said he and the Legislature can "iron out" any legal flaws in the bill, Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus, a vocal supporter of the Beal proposal, said the governor’s decision was akin to not supporting the company.
"If you don’t support it, it should be vetoed," Petrus said. "It totally baffles me — you either support it or you don’t."
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, who has been granted a temporary restraining order against the land exchange, said Turnbull "escaped contempt" by not signing the bill.
Meanwhile, Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews will hear arguments Wednesday on Hansen’s suit against the government. The judge will decide whether to allow Beal lawyers to intervene in the suit and whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the land-exchange agreement.
The V.I. government's attempt to transfer the case from Territorial to District Court failed on grounds that the federal court lacked jurisdiction over the local land issue.

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