Developers Pitch Snake-Friendly 14-Room Eco Resort on Water Island

A proposed 14-room resort 0n Water Island would preserve Virgin Islands Tree Boa habitat, developers said. (Photo: Bioimpact, Inc.)

Developers wanting to build a 14-room eco-resort on the southern end of Water Island made their pitch to Coastal Zone Management committee members Tuesday, saying they would proceed in a way that did not harm endangered snakes spotted in the area.

The proposed Flamingo Bay Eco Resort would envelop the Fort Segarra complex, abandoned by the U.S. military in the 1950s. The windswept structures at Plot 19 are popular with visitors for their stunning sea views and historical legacy. The developers said they wanted their resort to be in keeping with the island’s laid-back style but quieter than the current Honeymoon Beach offering.

People living near the proposed site worried about noise pollution in this quiet area.

An endangered Virgin Islands Tree Boa (Chilabothrus granti) was seen at the fort in May of 2006 — a rare sighting that makes construction of the area potentially difficult, the developers said. The snakes are harmless to humans but exceedingly rare.

BBK Development LLC wants to build eight studio units, two one-bedroom units, and four two-bedroom units on the 3.97-acre plot. The resort will also include a swimming pool, an open-air restaurant and bar, and 30 parking spaces. Fort Segarra consists of four existing hurricane-damaged structures: three barracks buildings and a mess hall. The ruins of these old buildings would be incorporated into the resort project, the developers said.

It was in one of the barracks buildings that the snake was seen.

“Development of the site will follow the Virgin Islands Conservation Measures for the Tree Boa,” BBK officials wrote to Coastal Zone Management. “The site will have to be hand cleared, and BBK Development LLC will ask the Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a tree boa training session for all individuals involved in hand clearing.”

The training will include tree boa identification and what to do if a snake is encountered.

“Photographs of the tree boa will be prominently displayed at the site. Clearing will be limited to construction footprints and those necessary for the installation of the infrastructure and amenities. All vegetation will be cut by hand, and the site will be left undisturbed for five days prior to the use of heavy machinery,” the developers wrote.

The area is littered with construction debris from previous development efforts, the firm said. They promised stone walls and rock piles would be carefully dismantled by hand to allow any tree boas to vacate the site without injury.

Debris from hurricane damage and previous construction on the site. (Photo: Bioimpact, Inc.)

Regulatory tree boa guidance allows for chainsaws to cut vegetation down to less than 36 inches. If a tree boa is found within any of the working or construction areas, BBK officials said they would stop activities in the area immediately and contact DFW for safe capture and relocation, if necessary.

The rarely-seen snake was not alone. A smooth-billed ani bird and a red-footed tortoise were seen during site surveys in 2021, the developers said. Conservationists don’t consider either species threatened. It’s also home to turpentine, water mampoos, and other large trees the firm said it will leave undisturbed.

The project will incorporate solar energy to help meet its power requirements and will install a wastewater treatment plant and utilize the gray water for irrigation, according to St. Thomas-based BBK Developments.

Once the project is complete, most guests to the eco-resort will arrive at Water Island by the ferry barge, which comes in at the public ferry landing, the developers said. Golf carts will be the primary mode of transportation for guests and the resort’s proposed 12 full- and part-time employees. Most people visiting Water Island rent golf carts, and the addition of additional carts on the roads will not have a negative impact on traffic, they said. The same is true of the 12 full- and part-time employees at the eco-resort.

It is probable that most employees will be St. Thomas residents and will travel to Water Island via the public ferry and would then be shuttled to the resort by golf cart or would take a golf cart to the resort.

The firm also owns land on St. John, and Vieques, Puerto Rico, according to the company’s website. They have acted as architects and developers for projects on the U.S. mainland, British Virgin Islands, French Channel Islands, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. Their projects include Tara and Rock Haven in Tortola and Bali Hai in Virgin Gorda.