The 32nd Legislature Committee on Finance declined to act on a measure to partially fund the construction of a new destination hotel for St. Thomas.
The measure, sponsored by two St. Thomas lawmakers, would have provided an initial step in further development of the Yacht Haven Grande marina and shopping center.
Consideration of Bill No. 32-0236 was one of four items on agenda at a committee meeting held Friday at the Cleone Creque Legislative Annex on St. John. They heard testimony on and approved three other zoning matters during a two hour hearing.
The funding bill was part of an amended deal with Limetree Bay Terminals, LC and Limetree Bay Refining, LLC. If passed by the Legislature, it would authorize an investment of $10 million to build a branded hotel property at the mega yacht marina.
Limetree Bay reached an agreement with the V.I. government in July to resume the oil refinery operation that ran for 40 years on St. Croix as part of Hess Oil and later Hovensa. At the time lawmakers ratified the deal and Gov. Kenneth Mapp said proceeds from the deal would finance payments to the Government Employees Retirement System and to fund hotel development.
Instead, when the agenda for the zoning items was complete, the committee adjourned.
Senate President Myron Jackson sponsored the bill along with St. Thomas-St. John district Sen. Marvin Blyden. As head of the Legislature, the senate president commonly promotes bills forwarded by the governor.
When 32-0236 was effectively tabled by the committee, Jackson expressed disappointment.
Building a hotel at Yacht Haven Grande was a step towards economic development, he said. Having a branded hotel on the property would attract visitors who would likely eat at area restaurants, shop and frequent businesses in nearby Port of Sale and the Havensight Mall.
Without the hotel, Jackson said, Yacht Haven has a harder time realizing its full potential as a destination.
The committee did approve two zoning requests to facilitate asphalt production; one on St. Croix, one on St. Thomas. A third measure set aside a parcel of undeveloped land for use by a restaurant supplier to serve as a base for receipt of imported goods and the operation of a messenger and delivery service.
All three measures won approval from Finance Committee members Marvin Blyden, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Dwayne DeGraff, Brian Smith, Tregenza Roach, Neville James and Kurt Vialet.
Vialet is finance committee chairman.
The lease agreement with Marco St. Croix, Inc. authorized rezoning of a 6.8 acre plot at 4BA Estate Blessing, King Quarter.
“The purpose of the lease agreement is to use the premises to operate an asphalt plant and heavy equipment rental. The lease agreement is for 20 years,” legislative aide Africah Harrigan said.
On St. Thomas, an agreement with Universal Asphalt Paving, LLC, would authorize use of an unimproved parcel of 1.45 acres in Sub Base for a paving company, an asphalt plant and aggregate storage facility. A 20-year lease includes annual rent paid to Property and Procurement of $72,000.
Marco Inc. President Shawn Baptiste said he wanted to use the enterprise to help local paving companies acquire paving materials at affordable prices. Universal Paving President Eric Castro told the committee he wanted to provide similar support for his customers.
The third agreement, with THAW, LLC., d/b/a #1 Gopher, rezones 6,16 square feet of unimproved land at 5A Estate Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter. A 10-year lease, with two- and five-year renewal options, comes with an annual rent off $12,000.
The three approved rezoning measures now move to the Senate Rules Committee and if approved there, on to the full Senate for final approval.