Marina Developers Chart Leases for V.I.-owned Submerged Land

Coral Bay Marina LLC’s development hinges on obtaining a lease for about four acres of submerged land, above, in Coral Bay harbor.

As the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ (DPNR) Coastal Zone Management Division (CZM) continues to weigh the merits of a marina development in Coral Bay, there remains the question of leasing about four acres of publicly-owned submerged land.

The residents of the Virgin Islands actually own all submerged lands in the territory — except those parcels that are owned by the federal government — and the land is kept in trust by the V.I. Governor.

Three-pronged Process
Private developers must navigate a “three-pronged” process in order to secure a lease for publicly-owned submerged lands, according to the commissioner of CZM.

“First of all, a developer must get a permit for the overall development,” said Victor Somme. “You have to have a permit first before you can discuss a lease for the use and occupancy of submerged lands.”

The island-specific CZM Committee first decides whether to approve or deny a developer’s application. If the application is denied, the submerged land lease question ends there. If, however, the committee approves the application, then the applicant negotiates a lease with CZM, explained Somme.

Fair Market Value
“We determine the fair market value for the land and go from there,” he said. “The value depends on what type of development, if any, there is in the area. I can’t say what a specific value is for a specific area, it depends on where it is located and the use of the area.”

Although currently the use of the roughly four-acre area in Coral Bay is a mooring field, Somme would not comment on the fair market value of the submerged land.

Once the lease is negotiated between CZM and the applicant, the lease is sent to the V.I. Governor for approval, Somme explained.

Governor and Senate Weigh In
“After the lease is negotiated, it is sent to the governor for his approval,” he said. “If the governor signs off on the lease, it then goes to the V.I. Senate for final ratification.”

The first phase of the submerged land lease process for the proposed Coral Bay marina will be determined by the St. John CZM Committee at the group’s decision meeting on Tuesday, July 18, at 6 p.m. at the Cruz Bay Legislature building.

Citizens, who have already had a chance to voice their concerns about the project in written format, are invited to share their views at the public hearing for the marina, which will be held on Tuesday, June 20, at 6 p.m. at the Cruz Bay Legislature building.