July 16, 2003 – The St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce is calling on the parties involved in a challenge of the Coastal Zone Management permit for development of filled land as part of the Yacht Haven revitalization on St. Thomas "to take whatever steps are necessary to end this appeal and allow this important project to resume."
In a release, the chamber leadership expressed disappointment that the Save Long Bay Coalition has asked the Board of Land Use Appeals to require a separate permit for the filled land from the one approved for the hotel property and adjacent landfill as a whole.
IN-USVI, a local subsidiary of the stateside real estate development firm Insignia Nautica, owns the Yacht Haven Hotel and Marina property and has leased the adjacent seven acres of filled land, which is owned by The West Indian Co.
The company plans to rebuild the hotel and marina, which were badly damaged by Hurricane Marilyn eight years ago, and to develop a retail and office complex on the landfill, along with a waterfront walkway connecting Yacht Haven to downtown Charlotte Amalie and a public park and performance facility across from the Lovers Land intersection with Long Bay Road.
Cassan Pancham, Chamber president, said the business organization "has fully endorsed IN-USVI and its plans."
The coalition's appeal has had the effect of "halting the very recently begun work on the rebuilding of the Yacht Haven hotel property," Pancham said. IN-USVI recently erected a protective wall around the hotel property preliminary to beginning demolition of the derelict buildings. Last week dozens of young people from several youth groups painted a mural on it.
"Today, we are competing globally for visitors, especially important overnight visitors," Pancham said. "IN-USVI is proposing not only a hotel and marina project but a project that will revitalize nighttime activity and the lucrative marine industry. Just as important, this project will create a boardwalk that connects downtown to West Indian Co. dock."
The release said the chamber "is concerned" about Save Long Bay's claim that the filled land owned by WICO is "trust land." It noted that the same claim was rejected in the 1980s by federal district and appellate courts when the coalition was seeking to stop the dredging of Long Bay that resulted in the creation of the filled land. At that time, WICO was privately owned by Danish interests. Today it is owned by the V.I. government.
Delaying the Yacht Haven redevelopment project "is costing employment opportunities for many in the community, the loss of much-needed government revenue, loss of money to the developer and once more causing the delay of a major new tourism attraction," the chamber release stated.
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