FYI: Donastorg Urges Public Input on Land Swap

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Aug. 9, 2006 – Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg has urged the Governor to proceed cautiously and openly on the proposed St. John land swap.
According to the Administration, the plan is to exchange close to 15 acres of National Park land at Estate Catherineberg for offshore properties belonging to the Territory.
Donastorg said that the offshore cays belonged to the people of the Virgin Islands and that any land swap must be preceded by public hearings.
"I am in 100 percent agreement with building a new K-12 campus on St. John," Donastorg. "And I am in 100 percent agreement with our offshore cays becoming part of the National or Territorial park system. However, we can not act hastily nor sell ourselves short."
The senator said that before a deal was finalized, many issues should be taken into consideration.
"We have St. Johnians that can not gain access to their own properties because of park restrictions," Donastorg said. "And we have a serious need for affordable housing. I am one of the V.I. National Park's biggest supporters, but people have to be able live and work on St. John."
Donastorg said he has long supported the relocation of the Julius Sprauve School and the construction of a high school on St. John.
"I would like to see this high school offer some specialized courses of instruction where even a few St. Thomas students would be commuting to take advantage of these programs," he said. "This school would benefit St. John students, but also widen the options available to young people throughout this district."
Donastorg said that the specialized courses could focus on the marine industry, the arts, hospitality, science or other areas of study.
Last week Turnbull announced that he had met with the new Secretary of Interior to discuss the proposed land swap.
"What I want to know is whether he discussed St. Johnian's property rights and the serious need for affordable housing," he said.
Donastorg, a staunch environmentalist who has in the past lobbied for the protection of local cays, said that he was concerned about the Virgin Islands getting a fair deal from the Federal Government.
"The National Park owns the majority of St. John and they are the only place we can go to get land for a school, housing, roads and other projects," Donastorg said. "If we are going to make a trade, let's make sure that the public has a chance to weigh in on this. Let's hold public hearings and let's use this as an opportunity to address more than just the relocation of the school. We deserve better than 15 acres mid-island for giving up our rights to priceless trust lands."

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