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Friday, February 23, 2024


April 14, 2001 – Despite legislation passed by the 24th Legislature authorizing their return, vendors at the Drake's Seat scenic overlook have again been put on notice that they are violating the law and could face arrest and prosecution. This time, they've been given until 5 p.m. Monday to vacate the premises.
Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik says the itinerant sellers of T-shirts and other tourist-oriented wares are operating at the site without a valid "placement permit" from the government.
In a one-page notice dated April 11 citing the Monday deadline, Rutnik stated: "The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and the Police Department, shall pursue all legal recourse available to ensure your compliance with the Virgin Islands Code and Virgin Islands rules and regulations."
On April 9 the Senate voted to override the governor's veto of a bill that granted vendors virtual carte blanche to return to the site and resume sales. The one-paragraph bill, passed in the waning hours of the 23rd Legislature last Dec. 21, provides that the itinerant vendors who had been ordered by the administration to cease occupying the property across from Drake's Seat be allowed to return.
The bill reads that, "Notwithstanding any other law but subject to any deed restrictions, the easement that is held by the government of the Virgin Islands for the property … shall continue to be occupied by the itinerant vendors" holding a vendor's license as of the date of passage of the act "and who continue to pay into escrow for a location permit" to the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department.
At issue in the controversy surrounding the vendors' presence at the overlook is whether the easement allows their operations. The surrounding property is owned by the estate of Homer Wheaton; his heirs contend that he granted the government the right decades ago to develop the overlook as a visitor viewing site with the proviso that no commercial activity be permitted on the premises. The Wheaton heirs through their attorney, William McConnell, have taken the matter to U.S. District Court.
In his official notice Wednesday, Rutnik cited a District Court ruling that a memorandum of agreement between vendors and Housing, Parks and Recreation "does not constitute a substitute for a valid placement permit" issued by the Police Department. "For several reasons, the Police Department will not issue placement permits for the Drake's Seat site," Rutnik wrote.
Following Monday's Senate veto override, the scenic overlook by midweek was once again occupied by vendors of T-shirts, beverages and novelties seeking to attract the attention of tourists transported to the site by safari buses and taxi vans to take in the panoramic view of Magens Bay.

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