A zoning consultant has formally apologized for comments he made about the Lindqvist family at a hearing before DPNR’s Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning on March 9.
The hearing was held to consider a petition to change two adjoining parcels of land totaling 13.2 acres in Smith Bay on St. Thomas from A-1 Agricultural to R-3 Residential Medium Density and C-Commercial.
Soraya Diase Coffelt, a St. Thomas native, lawyer and former judge, purchased the property with her late husband, Gordon Coffelt, from 1988 to 1991 from Kenneth Lindquist. She is seeking to develop it for commercial enterprises and multi-use housing through a living trust.
In making the case for the zoning change, consultant Brian Turnbull told the hearing that while both parcels were once part of a larger A-1 Agricultural zoned tract of land, “in more recent decades, the government of the Virgin Islands tapped, claimed and possessed by adverse condemnation many acres of the original agricultural track of land for property tax delinquency by the original owners – the Lindqvist family.”
Candace Lindqvist said that’s simply not true, and provided the Source with Recorder of Deeds records to prove it. She also reached out to Territorial Planner Leia LaPlace-Matthew to set the record straight, which resulted in the letter of apology from Turnbull.
Louis Lindqvist purchased parcel 19 Estate Smith Bay, consisting of approximately 196 to 204 acres, in 1945, said Candace Lindqvist. “None of the original agricultural tract of land has ever been possessed by the government and the Coffelts did not purchase what was left of the property,” she wrote in an email. The current owners are either members of the Lindqvist family or bought parcels of land from a Lindqvist owner, she said.
Over the years, approximately 200 acres have been transferred either by inheritance/probate and adjudication, or by warranty deed with a Lindqvist owner as grantor in all cases, said Candace Lindqvist.
“As can be verified by the recorded document numbers provided, the Lindqvist family has sold some parcels, and we have maintained ownership of most of the acreage. Obviously, the government did not possess any acreage for delinquent taxes,” she said.
In his letter of apology, filed with DPNR, Turnbull said he was relying on his memories of conversations with the late Gordon Coffelt for the information he presented at the hearing.
“First, Ms. Lindqvist objects to the fact that I stated at the public hearing that the Government of the Virgin Islands had taken property from the Lindqvist family in the past due to unpaid property taxes. That was my understanding after having been involved in various rezoning discussions with the late Mr. Gordon Coffelt many years ago before his passing,” Turnbull wrote in his letter dated March 11.
“Based on her statement that the Government never did take any portion of the family’s property for nonpayment of taxes, I would like to correct my statement. What I said was not an intentional misrepresentation but a misunderstanding on my part and I was trying to give some general historical background to the properties,” Turnbull continued.
“I do sincerely apologize to Ms. Lindqvist, her family and you for that error. The fact that no properties were ever taken from any member of the Lindqvist family has no true bearing on the instant application, and I was not trying to infer or suggest that in anyway,” he wrote.
“Again, I sincerely apologize first to Ms. Lindqvist and any other member(s) of the Lindqvist family and to you for the unintentional error. I ask, therefore, that the record be corrected accordingly,” Turnbull wrote.
The public may comment on the petition for rezoning until March 20 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Once the comment period closes, the Division of Comprehensive and Coastal Zone Planning will prepare a recommendation report for the V.I. Legislature, which will conduct a Committee of the Whole public hearing. The Senate will then schedule a session to vote on the request.