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May 29, 2007

Rents frozen at 1947 levels?

I really don't understand this article, "Time for rental reforms in the Caribbean":

"The most restrictive is the US Virgin Islands. Rents are frozen at their 1947 level. For housing accommodations, the maximum rent ceiling is the rent in force and in effect on July 1, 1947. For buildings created and/or rented after July 1, 1947, the maximum rent allowed is the first rent charged for the unit."

Is this actually true (in a legal sense - I know it is not being enforced)? Does this refer to some arcane statute? When I lived on St. Thomas people seemed to charge whatever they wanted for rent, and rents were rising all the time.

Archive link for this entry: Rents frozen at 1947 levels? | Comments (2) |

May 25, 2007

New Planning Director on Board at DPNR

The highly accomplished Wanda Mills-Bocachica, Ph.D., has been hired as the new director of the Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning Division, according to a news release from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (via the St. Thomas Source).

There is a very positive news flow coming from the new administration in the USVI.

Archive link for this entry: New Planning Director on Board at DPNR | |

Residents Gather to Address Potential 'Tragedy' on Great St. James

The St. Thomas Source is reporting on a potentially huge project on Great St. James:

May 24, 2007 -- A "great tragedy" is brewing in the Virgin Islands, a small group of residents said Thursday evening, gathering at the airport on St. Thomas to voice their concerns over a large-scale development proposed for Great St. James Island.

During a public hearing held before the Coastal Zone Management governing board, residents cited a bevy of environmental and ecological concerns in an effort to persuade board members to thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of the project before giving a final go-ahead on the required CZM permit application.

Project-design plans detail the construction of 53 individual home units, which will sit atop three-acre lots connected by roadways. The development itself will span about 163 acres -- the entirety of plots marked on CZM maps as A, B and C.

More here. Color me skeptical - it would be nice to see that island left alone. The article mentions our old friend, environmentalist and all around gadfly (in a good sense) Jason Budsan - I hope he has some support on this issue.

No-bid HUD contract pays administrator half a million a year


"The man who runs the troubled V.I. Housing Authority made almost half a million dollars in his first year on the job - a paycheck that exceeded those of the governor of the Virgin Islands and the president of the United States.

Michael Hollis, a private-sector Atlanta attorney who landed a no-bid contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be executive administrator of the V.I. Housing Authority, also has a generous expense allowance at his disposal.

Fifteen months after The Daily News made a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act for a copy of Hollis' contract with HUD, the federal agency released the document this month.

The no-bid, six-month contract called for Hollis to receive $225,600 for running the day-to-day operations of the local Housing Authority from Feb. 1 to July 31, 2006. HUD renewed the contract, again without soliciting bids, giving Hollis another six months on the job and another $225,600 - for a total of $451,200 during that 12-month period.

Ray Fonseca, who held the top spot at the Housing Authority in the months before HUD seized control of the agency from the local government in August 2003, had a contract that carried a $105,000 annual salary, he said."

From the VI Daily News.

May 23, 2007

Board of Education Squabble Prompts Apologies, Call for Resignations

The quality (or sadly the lack thereof) of public education is an important piece of the puzzle for those who live or are thinking about moving to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Stories like this don't help:

May 22, 2007 -- An altercation between two V.I. Board of Education members has spurred ongoing discussion in the community, along with a series of statements and apologies issued by the organization's chairwoman.

In the latest twist in the saga, one public official has called for greater action, asking the board members to resign their posts.

In a news release issued earlier this week, Sen. Liston Davis requested that Terrence D. Joseph and Shawn Gibson, both involved in an altercation at a meeting held earlier this month, resign because of their "recent unsavory, unacceptable and egregiously negative" conduct.

More here from the St. Thomas Source. Here is hoping that the new governor can start to reverse the situation of VI public schools.

May 22, 2007

Island Global Yachting, Yacht Haven Grande

Island Global Yachting announced the opening of Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas, USVI on March 26, 2007. This is old news but I wanted to make sure we had it on the site for reference. Their full press release is below the fold.


NEW YORK, NY (March 26, 2007) Island Global Yachting (IGY) held the Grande Opening of its first luxury yacht development—Yacht Haven Grande—on March 17th in St. Thomas, USVI, with more than 50 megayachts in attendance. Dignitaries from the USVI, including Governor John P. DeJohngh, as well as dignitaries and heads of state from around the Caribbean islands, also attended. Celebrities, financiers, and real estate executives from such diverse places as New York, Miami, and Dubai flew in for the festivities, which included 150 local performers, a Beach Boys Concert, and a grande finale of fireworks over the harbor.

Yacht Haven Grande broke ground in 2004 and today represents the most comprehensive advanced marina and upland facility in the Caribbean. Dubbed a “playground by the sea”, Yacht Haven Grande has hosted some of the world’s most spectacular megayachts at its state-of-the-art docks and marina facilities.

Andrew Farkas, CEO, IGY, said, “Yacht Haven Grande offers unparalleled service to the owners and crews of the worlds most luxurious megayachts, while also providing a new shopping and dining destination to the tourists and residents of St. Thomas. As the jewel in the crown of the IGY network, YHG brings the latest technology and the glamour of the Riviera to the USVI.

The property includes an esplanade with 3 restaurants and 80,000 square feet of retail space, which is open to the public. Nowhere else on St. Thomas can a cruise ship visitor, tourist or resident enjoy waterside dining and shopping in such a luxurious environment.

Stores include Louis Vuitton, Coach, Bulgari, BCBG, Bebe, White House Black Market, Little Switzerland, Royal Caribbean, Trident, Roberto Coin, and many more. The waterside restaurants include W!kked, casual and fun food and drink, Fat Turtle, a Caribbean roadhouse serving barbeque, pizzas, and frozen drinks, and Grande Cru, a more formal wine bistro offering Mediterranean fare. Next fall will see the opening of Three60, a fine dining establishment, with panoramic views overlooking the harbor.

The property also features 12 waterside condominiums each with 3 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, and 2 terraces and plunge pool, all with views of the harbor. The Residences at Yacht Haven Grande are currently on sale starting at $2 million.

Guests and residents may also enjoy two tennis courts, a putting green, swimming pool, and, if they wish, office space. The Club at Yacht Haven Grande will open to members in September of 2007. Yacht Club membership will include personalized amenities, recreational facilities and private dining.
The Marina at Yacht Haven Grande offers world-class amenities such as high-speed in-slip fueling, black water pump-out and waste oil removal; up to 600 amps of 3-phase power; WiFi, 24 hour security; side-to berthing for yachts up to 450 feet and beyond; and 18 foot concrete docks and piers. The marina services include, beautifully designed and appointed marina facilities dedicated for crew, owners and guests, including comprehensive nautical provisioning, catering, laundry, florist, and ships’ chandlery.

Yacht Haven Grande, a member of the Island Global Yachting Group (IGY), marina, retail and residential waterside concept is bringing the boating lifestyle onto land. Island Global Yachting (“IGY”) was formed in 2005 by Island Capital Group LLC to acquire, develop, manage and operate world-class marinas around the globe. Founded by Andrew L. Farkas in 2003, Island Capital Group LLC is a New York merchant banking firm specializing in real estate, real estate securities, and securitization. IGY focuses on acquiring, controlling and/or servicing luxury-yacht marinas and surrounding upland real estate properties in key regions from the Caribbean to Mexico and the Arabian Gulf. IGY marinas operate under the signature Yacht Haven Grande Collection and the IGY series brands as well as several private labels. Headquartered in New York & Fort Lauderdale, IGY also has offices in Greenville, South Carolina; St. Thomas, USVI; and Dubai, UAE. For more information, please visit

For more information contact:

Suzanne Nugent

+1 212 705 5052

Archive link for this entry: Island Global Yachting, Yacht Haven Grande | |

May 16, 2007

USVI continues to put its financial house in order

From the St. Thomas Source:

"May 14, 2007 -- Two top financial jobs in the territory came closer to getting filled Monday when Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. announced the selection of Claudette J. Watson-Anderson, CPA, as commissioner of Finance and Debra Gottlieb as budget director, pending approval from the Legislature.

The governor also named Austin Nibbs as executive assistant finance commissioner, an appointment that does not require Senate approval.

"Having previously worked in both the private and public sectors, Watson-Anderson brings solid and exemplary experience to the administration," said a Government House news release. "She has spent the last 25 years in senior and managing accountancy positions, and was recently the Legislative post auditor for the 26th and 27th Legislatures, where she routinely offered technical and advanced understandings of financial data and accountancy bills, proposals and other analyses."

Archive link for this entry: USVI continues to put its financial house in order | |

May 14, 2007

He Buys, He Fixes

Interesting profile from the Wall Street Journal:

Entrepreneurs like Gordon Black never really retire. The 65-year-old, who started a market-research firm in 1975 that went on to become Harris Interactive Inc., a prominent polling company, tried to stop working. But he soon found himself starting another business -- albeit one that took him in a completely different direction.

Mr. Black took Harris public on Nasdaq in 1999 and spent five years as chief executive. (The firm, long known for its public-opinion barometer, the Harris Poll, made a splash when it became the first outlet to use Internet polls to correctly predict the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.) Mr. Black retired in 2004, with generous amounts of time and money on his hands. But he soon decided he didn't want to spend the rest of his days at his home in Rochester, N.Y.

EN-AA264_PROFBL_20070511180341-1.jpg"I didn't want to stay in the middle of the Snow Belt and the high-tax belt," Mr. Black says laughing. Looking for sun and a place where his windfall would go further, he settled on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "I came down here because it's gorgeous, but it also happens to have an attractive tax situation, so I immediately started thinking of setting up a new company."

Within a few months, he hit upon the idea of starting a real-estate business. After buying and renovating a villa for himself and his fiancée, Annika Van Wambeke, Mr. Black decided to buy additional properties to fix up and sell.

"We bought a second house, and then a third, and my real-estate business just sort of happened," says Mr. Black, who so far has purchased seven homes, four of which have already sold. He looks for high-end homes selling for more than $1 million that are in a state of disrepair (some have been hit by hurricanes), and then renovates them from top to bottom with fixtures imported from the U.S. Ms. Van Wambeke is in charge of the decorating and interior design.

Mr. Black's customers are mostly Americans, the majority from New York, looking for vacation homes or retirement residences. One of his properties, a waterfront home with a 345-foot private beach, is on the market for $4.3 million. "People are ready to spend $2 million to $5 million on the right house," he says.

Mr. Black says he is always on the lookout for properties, and has real-estate agents alert him when a house that fits his needs hits the market. He works with architects and builders in planning each redesign, and has developed relationships with U.S.-based suppliers of furniture, appliances and building materials, importing every last tile, window and dishwasher. Each renovation takes about six months to a year, though one particularly run-down house took 16 months.

"It's very time consuming, but I love learning a new set of skills," says Mr. Black, who had never dabbled in speculative real estate before. "After 35 years of doing basically the same thing, the challenge of learning about a whole new market is fun for me."

Not that he doesn't have any free time. When not overseeing work on his houses, Mr. Black spends afternoons on his boat, and travels often to the U.S. and Paris, where he owns an apartment. He is also involved in charitable organizations on the island and frequently hosts friends and family.

"When you live in the Caribbean," he says, "you have a constant flow of guests."

Archive link for this entry: He Buys, He Fixes | |

May 11, 2007

Hansen pleads not guilty to added counts of perjury

There is a story today in the VI Daily News about the bogus sewer system in St. Croix. I was living on St. Thomas when this happened. It is good to see these people held accountable:

"Cases of defendants charged with crimes connected to their involvement with Global Resources Management - a start-up company that obtained a $3.6 million no-bid contract to repair St. Croix's failing sewer system, a company later revealed to be a sham upon taxpayers - have been winding through the District Court this week.

Global Resources executives took advantage of well-placed government contacts to receive the contract for the sewer work, mandated by a long-standing federal consent decree. They then misrepresented personal and company finances to qualify for the project.

Andrews, the Global Resources' founder and president, and Malone, its accountant, were convicted in their September retrial on St. Thomas of attempting to defraud the V.I. government through the short-lived company. In that trial, the jury deadlocked on a conflict of interest charge against Hansen, who stood trial for the first time as a co-defendant.

Hansen was charged with awarding Global Resources a $25,000 legislative consulting contract while her husband, Esdel Hansen, was a company employee. Days after the Senate paid Global Resources at Hansen's request - despite no tangible work done to fulfill the contract - Andrews sent the senator a $1,000 contribution for her gubernatorial campaign, prosecutors argued at trial."

The whole thing is here.

Archive link for this entry: Hansen pleads not guilty to added counts of perjury | |

Virgin Islands Resident Loses Vote Lawsuit

Here is something people relocating to the Virgin Islands should know -

"On May 10, the 3rd circuit ruled that U.S. citizens living in the Virgin Islands may not vote for president. Ballentine v U.S.A, no. 06-4800. The irony is that U.S. citizens who move permanently to a foreign country may continue to vote absentee, forever. They retain their registration in the last state in the U.S. in which they lived. But should they then move to a U.S. territorial possessions, they lose that absentee vote. The 3rd circuit did not write its own opinion; it just it agrees with the U.S. District Court ruling."
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May 07, 2007

Record number of houses for sale on St. John

Frank Barnako is reporting the following:

The number of homes for sale on St. John has increased at least 11% since the start of the year. The morning's Multiple Listing Service Web site shows a record 140 residences on the market. Asking prices are between from $365,000 for an unfinished apartment with a view of Salt Pond to a $10.4 million beauty at Hansen Bay on East End. Something for every taste and pocketbook, perhaps.
Archive link for this entry: Record number of houses for sale on St. John | |

Former Government Official Sentenced in $1.4 Million Virgin Islands Bribery Scandal


WASHINGTON – The former director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Division of Environmental Protection has been sentenced to four years in prison for conspiring to defraud the Virgin Islands government of approximately $1.4 million, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Jenkins of the District of the Virgin Islands announced today.

Full article below the fold.

(PressZoom) - WASHINGTON – The former director of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources ( DPNR ) Division of Environmental Protection has been sentenced to four years in prison for conspiring to defraud the Virgin Islands government of approximately $1.4 million, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Anthony J. Jenkins of the District of the Virgin Islands announced today.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper sentenced Hollis L. Griffin, 43, to four years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution. The defendant previously pleaded guilty in Atlanta on Sept. 26, 2006. Griffin was charged in the District of the Virgin Islands on June 21, 2006, along with former Virgin Islands Fire Service employee Earl E. Brewley and Esmond J. Modeste, the purported project manager of a fictitious company by the name of Elite Technical Services ( Elite ), with engaging in an elaborate bribery and kickback scheme to defraud the territorial government of approximately $1.4 million in federal and local funds. Brewley and Modeste pleaded guilty to the charges before U.S. District Judge Curtis V. Gomez on July 12, 2006. They are scheduled to be sentenced on May 11, 2007. At Griffin’s request, the case against him was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta for purposes of entering a guilty plea and sentencing.

According to court documents, in early 2000, Griffin, Brewley, Modeste and others formed Elite and then used the fictitious company, as well as other companies, to seek and be awarded at least seven government contracts valued at approximately $1.4 million. Although little or no actual work was performed on the contracts—which were awarded by DPNR and the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement ( DP&P ) on behalf of DPNR and the Virgin Islands Fire Service—payments totaling over $1.1 million were made to Elite and the other companies. Once the contract proceeds were paid to Elite and the other companies, Brewley, Modeste and others paid bribes and kickbacks totaling between $300,000 and $350,000 to at least four territorial government officials including Griffin.

Griffin, like Brewley and Modeste, pleaded guilty to engaging in a five-year conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, honest services mail fraud, and structuring currency transactions, all in violation of federal law. Many of the contracts at issue were funded with federal monies, and both the DPNR and the Fire Service received annual appropriations of federal funds with which to fund such programs and contract awards. A series of $9,900 cash withdrawals—totaling over $350,000—were allegedly made by Brewley, Modeste and others after depositing certain contract proceeds into FirstBank, Wachovia, and Banco Popular. Like Brewley and Modeste, Griffin admitted that these cash withdrawals were made in order to pay the bribes and kickbacks in cash, and avoid the filing of currency transaction reports by the local banks.

This case is being prosecuted by Armando O. Bonilla and John P. Pearson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The task force investigating this case comprises agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Treasury Department/Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of the Inspector General. The Virgin Islands Office of the Inspector General also assisted in this investigation.

USVI Delegate re-introduces Chief Financial Officer legislation

Christensen tried this on Turnbull's watch - she is trying it again:

WASHINGTON, USA: USVI Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen re-introduced legislation this week that would create the office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Virgin Islands government. The bill which passed the US House of Representatives in the 108th and 109th Congresses was re-introduced with changes to reflect the current realities in the territory.

More here.

May 03, 2007

Exousia Announces Agreement With International Investment Company Promoting Residential & Commercial Construction

Not quite sure what to make of this:

"The Strategic Relationship Agreement initially consists of approximately 7,900 homes in four countries and one U.S. Territory. Rosewood has proposed community projects in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, South Africa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Exousia is to provide high quality structurally insulated building systems and technical expertise for worldwide deployment. Rosewood will provide real estate development services including master planning and infrastructure to create affordable planned residential communities. Exousia anticipates completion of the aforementioned 7,900 homes over the next five to seven years."

British Virgin Islands Ministry of Finance introduces website to the public

Tortola, BVI -- May 2, 2007 -- The Ministry of Finance has announced its website,, which will serve to inform public servants and the general public about the services the Ministry provides.

Minister of Finance Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton told the Department of Information and Public Relations that the website will, among other things, provide valuable information on how the Ministry is working to build a more prosperous BVI.

Financial Secretary Mr. Neil Smith said, “The website is aimed at informing the public and the civil service of the Virgin Islands on the activities and expectations of the Ministry of Finance, allowing it to more effectively achieve its goals of prudent fiscal and economic management of the Territory’s resources. Websites are a vital tool for the dissemination of information.”

The site provides information on financial legislation and regulations, budget estimates, and global fiscal and economic issues. The general public and Government employees will also have access to a variety of forms including taxi cab importation exemption applications and employee personal and car loan applications. There is also a Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ) section that provides information on various processes including the tendering and petty contracts process.

The Ministry of Finance serves as the focal point for leadership and policy direction relating to fiscal, economic growth and development of the British Virgin Islands. The Ministry’s primary responsibility is to safeguard and allocate the Government’s resources in accordance with legislative dictates and Executive Council or Ministerial policy to provide goods and services in the most efficient manner.

The Ministry of Finance’s strategic objectives are implemented through its five (5) departments that carry out the operational functions of the Ministry. Her Majesty’s Customs, BVI Post Office, Department of Information Technology, Inland Revenue Department and the Treasury Department. The Ministry also has oversight of the Financial Services Commission and the Development Bank of the Virgin Islands.

The Ministry joins several other Government departments that have introduced websites to the public recently. These include the Immigration Department, Social Development Department, Deputy Governor’s Office and Human Resources Department. The Ministry of Finance site includes links to other Government websites which makes it easy to access relevant information that may not be on the Ministry’s site.

May 01, 2007

Sirenusa Developer Responds to Allegations

The St. John Tradewinds has a story on the Sirenusa development:

In the wake of the V.I. Legislature’s passage of Sirenusa’s controversial zoning variance, a number of Love City residents have been making strong allegations regarding the luxury condominium project overlooking Cruz Bay.

The Senate voted 13 to 1 to approve a zoning variance for the 40-unit development from R-2, residential low-density, to R-3, residential medium-density, in order to construct seven additional units in three existing buildings on the lowest portion of the five-acre site.

The campaign against the development is being led by people who are determined to shut the site down, according to Sirenusa developer Enighed Condominiums LLC owner Carlo Marzano.

“You have so many things being said right now and a lot of the people have problems with the way development is taking place,” said Marzano. “There are people in this community who are emotionally and ideologically invested in seeing this project being shut down. And, failing to this end, they will say and do whatever is necessary to turn people against it.”

Archive link for this entry: Sirenusa Developer Responds to Allegations | |

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