July 13, 2004 – Community groups say they will appear at the Senate Tuesday to agitate for an override to a veto by Governor Charles Turnbull over the acquisition of Vessup Bay Beach. Leaders of the Red Hook Alliance led the initial campaign to preserve Vessup Beach in the face of development at Cabrita Point, but since they announced their intent to hold public demonstrations a private developer bought the property.
That developer said Monday he was willing to preserve the popular beach for public use and convert it into a public recreation area. But residents who support the preservation of the area said they were skeptical.
Both Vessup Beach and Muller Beach now belong to Lionstone Hotel and Resorts, part of the acquisition of Cabrita Point. Owner Alfredo Lowenstein said Monday he wants to return the beach to the public as a gift, adding restrooms, parking facilities, landscaping and beach sheds.
"From our point of view we purchased the land, which is private land that has a beach on the front, which is public. We plan to have better access to the whole beach with parking that would encourage the locals to come," Lowenstein said.
He also said he wants to see the "back of the beach" developed into hotels and condominiums and hinted at an expansion of the commercial strip in the area of the Latitude 18 nightclub to attract both locals and visitors.
Specifically, in exchange for converting the beach into a recreation area the developer said he would seek permission to develop 130 condominium units at Muller Bay on 17 acres, which is now being sought through a second acquisition.
Lowenstein said he intends to live in the area of Cabrita point when the proposed expansion of the Ritz Carlton Membership Homes condominium complex is built and he wants to enhance the quality of life in the area and share it with the island's residents.
It will be up to the central government to signal whether the proposal is acceptable, he said.
Andrea King, president of the Red Hook Alliance on Monday questioned the developers intent, asking why the plans to create a recreation space at Vessup didn't come up before during a year's worth of public hearings by various agencies.
"I don't believe it … This is the kind of activity that leaves the people of the Virgin Islands being duped and we won't be duped any longer. We want the beach and we want the green space behind the beach and we want the government to acquire it by eminent domain," King said.
She said if the development plans go through as currently presented, it would eliminate the last remaining green space on the east end of the island.
A day long public demonstration is being planned by the Red Hook Alliance on Tuesday, the day when a scheduled vote to override portions of Governor Charles Turnbull's 2004 supplemental budget that were passed by the Senate and later vetoed by the chief executive. The acquisition of Vessup Beach was among the items scratched by the governor.
Expected to join members of the alliance, are the Association of Concerned Native Virgin Islanders and the Environmental Rangers.
"Rita Brady who is the president of the Association of Concerned Native Virgin Islands has been working very closely with us on this," King said.
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