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Friday, July 19, 2024


June 15, 2003 – No appeal has been filed by the Long Bay Coalition contesting the Coastal Zone Management permits and lease of IN-USVI LLC, the company planning to redevelop and expand the derelict Yacht Haven property. Though Helen Gjessing, the coalition's president, said Saturday that the move is still "under consideration," time is growing short. An appeal must be filed within 45 days after ratification by the Legislature, which would make it about July 11.
Andrew Farkas, chief executive officer of Insignia Nautica, (IN-USVILLC is a subsidiary of Insignia Nautica), said in a release late in the week that "any delay at this point could jeopardize the Yacht Haven redevelopment project in its entirety, and the property could remain vacant indefinitely."
Getting this far has not been easy. The legislative and administrative processes in obtaining the lease and permits have been fraught with controversy. (See "Senate approves submerged lands lease").
One thing every stakeholder shares in common is the desire to demolish the unsightly Yacht Haven property, a major eyesore. It is the first thing the millions of cruise ship passengers see upon docking, and they pass it as they stroll or taxi to Charlotte Amalie.
The problems arise about the legality of the process, and questions have arisen about the anticipated acquisition of Insignia by CB Richard Ellis, which Farkas has said would not affect the acquisition.
(See "Insignia acquisition would affect Yacht Haven").
Farkas said in his release, "All leases and permits associated with the Yacht Haven redevelopment are in full compliance with local and federal laws and have been thoroughly reviewed by the Attorney General's Office and CZM attorneys." Farkas said.
"We crossed every 'T' and dotted every 'I'," he said, "as this project represents a very significant investment of our resources. We simply would not have gone forward if there were any legal considerations."
Gjessing said that the lease and CZM permits approved by the Legislature and signed into law May 28 by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull are illegal and violate the existing CZM laws set forth in the CZM Act of 1978. Several issues the coalition brought up were sticking points in the legislative process, as well.
The coalition's statement says:
– The CZM act doesn't give any committee of the CZM commission the right to grant a lease for occupancy and development of submerged lands.
– A lease may be granted for a specific parcel of filled land, but only for a period not to exceed 20 years. IN-USVI'S lease is for 90 years.
– The permit issued is a revocable license, and the permit in question attempts to incorporate in its entirely the terms and conditions of the illegal lease.
Gjessing said the waterfront property should have been developed as a "waterfront cultural and recreational park, and instead will be filled with non-marine retail and office space, four restaurants and an exotic water attraction." Gjessing said the coalition wants something that will provide "recreational opportunities" with shoreline access available to all.
"The deep seated desire of us all to improve the economy of the V. I., and specifically to restore the hotel and marina at Long Bay, cannot justify the approval of a project that is fraught with terms and conditions that violate a law that has protected the public interest for 25 years."
Farkas said the development "will provide a safe, educational, entertaining and beautiful venue."
He said the project has "taken nearly three years and millions of dollars to put together, and the company carefully scrutinized every detail before proceeding."
He defended the project's legality citing an opinion issued by the Attorney General on April 19, which stated the lease of submerged lands is "wholly legal and allows for the needed structure to maintain the financing and viability of the project as a whole." IN-USVI has leased bout 20 acres of submerged land from the V.I. government in order to build a world-class marina, and will pay more than $8 million in fees over the first 30 years of the lease, Farkas said, with millions more to follow.
He said the $150 million project will "pave the way for the re-emergence of the USVI as the yachting capital of the Eastern Caribbean." Aside from the hotel and marina, Farkas said IN-USVI will "pay for a public park, complete with a tot lot, picnic areas and an outdoor amphitheater for local performers."
As for the local economy, Farkas said, "More than 500 jobs are expected to be created during the initial 18-month construction phase, and 600 permanent jobs on completion."
Barring complications, he said, "Demolition of the hurricane ravaged Yacht Haven hotel could begin in a matter of weeks."

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