May 25, 2006 – Testimony given at a Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs Committee meeting Wednesday gave some community members a better understanding of why the affordable housing complex currently being constructed on the site of the former Virgin Isles Hotel is open to the public instead of being exclusively for veterans, according to Sen. Louis P. Hill.
During a brief interview Wednesday evening, Hill said that after the site was turned over to the government by the owners of the former hotel, legislation was passed in 2001 by former Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel leasing the site to Veterans Resource and Development Inc. (VRDI) – a corporation developed to manage the project.
The bill authorized the development of a veterans complex on the property, which would include housing and medical facilities, among other things. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull approved the bill in November 2001.
Hill said that an amendment was added to the bill a few months later that designated the site for veterans only. He said the amendment allowed VRDI to develop the property using federal low-income housing tax credits from the V.I. Housing Authority.
According to articles printed in other local publications, Pickard-Samuel said during the meeting that the amendment was created to help the organization in funding the project and in ensuring that all the units would be filled.
"But by introducing the amendment, and by funding the project through the tax credits, the site therefore had to be open to all residents," Hill said during the interview. "Therefore, it just became a regular affordable housing complex."
However, Hill added that Samuel Ebbesen – the current president of VRDI – said during the meeting that the corporation is still looking to develop facilities for veterans on the site.
According to a May 24 Daily News article, Ebbesen said that the organization is seeking "nontax-credit funding" to build additional units exclusively for veterans on two unused parcels on the site – along with a medical facility and a new location for the V.I. Office of Veterans Affairs.
Ebbesen also said that 70 veterans have applied for housing at Patriot Manor, which is expected to be finished by the end of this year.
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