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HomeNewsArchivesLINDQVIST AREA LONG ON AGENDA; NOW ON DOCKET?

LINDQVIST AREA LONG ON AGENDA; NOW ON DOCKET?

Aug. 30, 2003 — Top officials of the V.I. government say they are looking at ways to ensure an East End St. Thomas beach will remain accessible to the public, even after they lost to a private concern a bid to purchase Lindqvist Beach.
Island Administrator James O'Bryan Jr. and Attorney General Iver Stridiron told the V.I. Daily News that acquisition of the popular private beach remained a priority of the Turnbull Administration. When he delivered his "State of the Territory" address earlier this year, Gov. Charles Turnbull said steps had been taken towards acquiring the property.
The scenic private Smith Bay beach, long owned by the Lindqvist family, has long been a popular spot for St. Thomas locals for cookouts and parties. The property was put up for sale more than three years ago, and representatives of the landowners hinted that they wanted the V.I. government to acquire the land.
(See "V.I. government wants to buy Lindqvist Beach" and "Senate earmarks funds for Lindqvist and more", both February 2002 news articles.)
Other reports at the time had the government planning to have Magens Bay Authority manage the property, and Planning and Natural Resources Department (DPNR) Commissioner Dean Plaskett seeing it as the "start of a park system." (Find these articles by typing "Lindqvist" in the search box at top right of the St. Thomas Source's front page.)
But when the government fell short of the $3.5 million dollar asking price, it was sold in May to a private concern, who later re-sold it to V.I. Investments LLC.
The final purchase price came in at slightly less, for $3.15 million.
The missed opportunity to acquire the property provoked expressions of disgust from one lawmaker who sponsored legislation in April 2002 to appropriate funds for the sale. Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd said in spite of his persistent attempts to persuade the governor and other members of his administration to proceed without further delay, the government's response was too slow.
Liburd was also critical of what he described as the government's efforts to make up for lost time. "The government's latest move to acquire the property by eminent domain is a last-ditch effort to acquire this pristine, popular beach. They were caught sleeping at the wheel on a project that they claimed was a priority to the administration and the people of the Virgin Islands, especially those residing in the St. Thomas-St. John District," he said in a statement released from his St. Croix office on Friday.
A second lawmaker expressed "real disappointment" at the sale. Sen. Louis Patrick Hill said the bay "has the potential for use by a large number of local residents. This and the steady, growing development of the East End is why the public acquisition of … the beach and upland area was given high priority. The area is almost 21 acres of which 4 acres is a centrally located wetland area where the few remaining whitetail deer as well as ducks, herons, egrets, falcons and other endangered animals make their habitat."
Act No. 6505, signed by the governor in May 2002, earmarked $3.5 million dollars from interest earned on bond proceeds to buy the beach.
The new owners say they want to build two private houses on the land, and they recently applied for a coastal zone permit to clear the way for construction. But DPNR's Coastal Zone Management Division rejected the application over public access issues.
On Friday, Plaskett said the permit was turned down by an assistant commissioner while he was on vacation. Now, he said, attorneys for the property owners are trying to work their way through the application process. "An appeal has been made to me of the denial through attorney George Dudley, and I had a meeting with him over the telephone. We discussed the concerns the department has and we will have a subsequent meeting, come Wednesday," he said.
Dudley did not return phone calls made Friday, asking for comment on the CZM permit. Continued public access to beach areas has traditionally been one of the provisions for agreements made between developers and the V.I. government. One of the most recent examples occurred also on the east end of St. Thomas as the Ritz Carlton Resort began construction of a time-share condominium complex near Bluebeard's Beach in Great Bay.
Other media reports on the Lindqvist Beach deal say the V.I. Justice Department has prepared documents in pursuit of an effort to obtain the property by eminent domain, with Stridiron indicating that an acquisition price of $1 million had been calculated after three property assessments were conducted by DPNR. On Thursday Stridiron told the Daily News condemnation of the property could take place once the governor signed the order and the administration came up with $2 million.
Sen. Hill "supports the effort by the Virgin Islands Department of Justice to file the necessary documents to obtain the property by eminent domain for use by the general public," his release said.
Governments have the right to acquire property through eminent domain for public use, as long as the government can pay just compensation. Property owners also have the right to challenge such a claim but, according to an Internet website operated by the California-based law firm, Oliver, Vose, Sandifer, Murphy and Lee, such challenges rarely succeed.

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