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NEW YORK - "Territory folks should stick together."
The theme of that refrain from the classic musical "Oklahoma" could be key to solving some of the issues pertinent to the Virgin Islands that were broached at the Republican National Convention's preliminary sessions in Manhattan.
April Newland, a St. Thomas resident and delegate to the Platform Committee, presented four amendments to the Republican Party's official platform.
ST. THOMAS - Before a legislative chamber packed with St. Thomas and Water Island residents, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources outlined its proposal to overhaul the territory's zoning laws.
The plan, which would scrap the spot zoning process, would replace the 18 zoning districts set out in the law with seven land use and five water use categories.
At a hearing Tuesday night, senators and DPNR officials said the new proposal, known as the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan, would streamline the zoning process while ensuring that development does not run amok.
The Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee will hear a presentation Wednesday on St. Croix on a new draft of the Virgin Islands Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan.
The plan, which has been discussed as a concept since the 1980s but never approved as law, would set zoning and other land use regulations throughout the territory, creating a blueprint for development instead of the fragmented laws and regulations currently in use.
"We need a plan for the appropriate management of the development of the entire territory of the Virgin Islands," Sen. Usie Richards, who is proposing the legislation, said Monday.
ST. THOMAS - Gov. Charles Turnbull vetoed a bill Friday that would have created 2,500 new affordable homes in the territory, saying that he supported the sentiment behind the bill but that borrowing revenue from the Stamp Tax to fund the project would have deepened the territory's already serious financial crisis.
"I could not in good conscience approve this bill," Turnbull wrote in a letter to Senate President David Jones. It "will further exacerbate the territory's financial situation by siphoning off more monies from the General Fund."
ST. THOMAS - A chain-link fence that blocks a path to Sunsi Beach in Estate Tabor and Harmony has been reinforced with steel bars and razor wire, and a security guard now patrols the area, fueling the controversy over the public's right to access Virgin Islands beaches.
Although Sunsi Beach is not as large or popular as Lindqvist Beach - also embroiled in a public access debate - the quiet, white-sand spot until recently was enjoyed by neighborhood residents and their friends. With the trail to the beach now blocked, many are speaking out.
8/4/2004 11:03 pm
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands - A Las Vegas-based developer failed to address environmental concerns in its application to build a casino-resort near sensitive wetlands, a government regulatory agency has decided.
Golden Resorts did not provide plans for wildlife protection, trash removal, and sewage and drainage controls, according to the Coastal Zone Management Committee's 12-page ruling released late Tuesday.
The committee said it would officially inform the company of its decision this week, giving it 10 days to address the concerns.
Golden Resorts wants to build the $150 million resort about 50 feet from the mangrove-fringed Great Pond on the island of St. Croix.
The pond is home to many rare birds, including herons egrets and the white crown pigeons. The federally protected green and hawksbill sea turtles nest on the nearby beaches.
Environmentalists argue the resort would attract crowds to the normally deserted beaches, potentially destroying turtle nesting grounds and scaring off birds. They also say soil runoff from construction could cause other harm.
Golden Resorts attorney Kevin Rames countered the 290-acre resort would employ 1,200 people, 80 percent of whom would be from St. Croix, the largest and poorest island in the U.S. Caribbean territory. The 434-room resort would include a casino and golf course.
Rames insisted the resort wouldn't be any more environmentally damaging than the stray dogs, motorcycle riders and fishermen's shacks already around the area.
"The same interest groups who have concern about development don't seem to care about the fishing shacks and feral dogs there," Rames said. "But when you try to put something on the ground to employ people the objections flow fast and they flow heavy."
Golden Resorts has an appeal pending with the Board of Land Use Appeals, arguing it should have been granted the permit by default because the zone management committee failed to rule on its application within 30 days. That deadline passed in February.
The appeals board has agreed to hear the case in September, said Michael Law, the board's legal counselor.
Copyright © 2004 The Reno Gazette-Journal
ST. THOMAS - The Lindqvist Beach property owners let a deadline pass Friday without filing a motion in District Court to block the government from using money from a settlement trust fund to take the property by eminent domain.
The owners, Edwin Padgett and Donald Rifenberg of V.I. Investments, had until the close of business Friday to file the motion. Pending District Court approval, the government plans to use $1.7 million from the Tutu Wells Aquifer and Turpentine Run settlement to purchase the 21.5 acres of prime East End real estate.
The government believes it will need $4.2 million to purchase the property, based on recent appraisals it had done to determine the fair market value.