June 28, 2005 – A bill originally proposing the transfer of 200 acres of land on Water Island to the Affordable Housing Program was amended at Tuesday's Committee on Housing, Sports, and Veteran's Affairs meeting because senators were concerned about the lack of available locations for other infrastructure projects.
Sen. Celestino White, who proposed the bill, said, "I can't in good conscience approve the transfer of the whole 200 acres because Water Island residents are going to need things like gas stations, emergency services and grocery facilities. We could use part of that land for other things." (See "Sen. White Floats Plans for Water Island")
As a result, senators proposed the transfer of approximately 60 acres or 30 percent of the property recently handed over to the V.I. government by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Clifford Graham, executive director of the Housing Finance Authority, approved of the change to use the smaller amount of land for affordable housing. "I understand there is a need for land for other projects," Graham said. "Thirty percent will be sufficient."
Sen. Usie Richards questioned whether the land to be transferred would be suitable for building because a military installation on the property used to store old ammunition. His questions spurred an additional measure calling for the governor's office to conduct a land-use study of the property, with a subsequent plan for future use.
White said $75,000 would be appropriated from the V.I. treasury to conduct the study. According to the amendment, these funds would remain "available until expended."
All amendments were approved and sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further action.
Present at Tuesday's meeting were Sens. White, Richards, Ronald Russell, Pedro Encarnacion and Liston Davis. Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Craig Barshinger and Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg were absent.
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