Aug. 4, 2005 At 2 p.m. Thursday, Lindqvist Beach became the property of the Virgin Islands. Court papers were filed Thursday afternoon which after years of anxiety and public concern finally give the beach back to the community.
The pristine beach, which sits on 21 acres near Smith Bay, has been a well-loved spot for family gatherings, picnics and parties for years. Its sparkling white shoreline creates one of the territory's most desirable beaches.
Today's action, in effect, divests from the owners of the property Virgin Island Investments, LLC who were in the process of developing the last East End beach to the V. I. government. Elliot Mac Davis, solicitor general, said Thursday afternoon, "The action of eminent domain filed pursuant to the V. I. Code by virtue of filing the action exercises the government's authority under eminent domain."
The acquisition has been in process for at least five years, but the government fell short of funding and the issues stalled. Meantime, private developers acquired the property.
The court papers state: "The property was acquired under the VI Code, Section 8, of Act 6505 passed by the V. I. Legislature which authorizes the acquisition of Lindqvist Beach for the public use as land for public recreation, and for inclusion in the government's public parks system and as a significant natural area."
The property was acquired for $4,108,750, which was deposited to the Registry of the Superior Court Thursday, Davis said. The purchase was funded by a bond issue from the Public Finance Authority.
According to Kenneth Mapp, PFA director of finance and administration, the $4.1 million was issued in the form of a bank draft to the Justice Department late Wednesday. The funds will allow the process of condemnation of the property to begin. Mapp said Thursday the funds were drawn, "pursuant to the law and pursuant to the adopted resolutions of the PFA Board of Directors." He said representatives from Justice picked up the bank draft Wednesday afternoon.
The $4.1 million represents the average of four independent assessments on the property, as required by law to start an acquisition by eminent domain.
Up until recently the government had set aside $2.5 million dollars to acquire the property, but the figure was short by $1.6 million. In June the Finance Authority board re-authorized funds to be spent on several capital projects in the territory and from that re-authorization, Mapp said the additional $1.6 million was drawn.
Alan Smith, attorney for the developers, said Thursday afternoon that he had no knowledge of the court filing.
The developers are scheduled for a minor Coastal Zone Management hearing Thursday at 9:30 a.m. before the Board of Land Use Appeals. Board attorney Michael law said Thursday they are asking for approval for a minor permit to develop Lindqvist Beach and another matter referring to conditions for a fence on the beach's gate.
However, Law said, "We just received a Motion to Dismiss filed by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources." He said the motion indicates the government is taking the property by eminent domain.
Law said, "It is up to the board to decide what impact this will have on the hearing. The other side will probably want to respond and that will have to be considered by the board."
Although it has always been privately held, Lindqvist Beach has been enjoyed by the public as a recreation site for more than 20 years. When private landholders put the property up for sale several years ago there were attempts by members of the 24th Legislature to purchase the property. A bill was passed, but the government was slow to come up with the funds and a Georgia developer stepped in with a plan to build luxury condominiums.
There has been public outcry ever since especially since the developer, V.I. Investments, erected a fence around the roadside entrance to the property in 2003. Dean Plaskett, DPNR commissioner, said the fence was put up illegally and issued a hefty fine along with orders to tear the fence down.
The fence stayed up but developers agreed to keep the gate open, allowing the public traditional access to the beach, until the question of public access could be aired before the V.I. Board of Land Use Appeal.
Through a spokesman, the DPNR commissioner indicated he would withhold comment on the latest development in the Lindqvist matter until he heard more from the PFA. (See "Lindqvist CZM Permit Hearing to be Continued").
James O'Bryan, Government House spokesman, expressed pleasure Thursday afternoon at the acquisition. He said "Today is a very satisfying day for the administration." He added that the next step on the agenda should be the acquisition of Vessup Bay.
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