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August 11, 2004

Update: St. Croix casino controversy

Mat Probasco
ASSOCIATED PRESS
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


Coldwell Banker, Stout Realty, St. Thomas


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