Forwarded letter from Miles and Susan Stair concerning the future of the Caneel Bay Resort post Hurricanes Irma and Maria:
Miles & I are reaching out to you to help save the future of Caneel Bay. The resort was badly damaged in the Hurricanes of September and has not reopened. Our Delegate to Congress has put Bill HR4731 before the House that will give the small company that now has the lease (CBI Acquisitions) unrestricted rights to all the Caneel Property for 60 more years. The Bill has been passed in the sub-committee and is now before the House. We, on St. John, are extremely upset, and feel that we have no means to counter this bill. We hope you will speak to your Congressmen and Senators and explain why this bill should not be passed.
Caneel Bay and its beaches and historic ruins are truly the “jewel in the crown” of our Virgin Islands National Park. It scares us to think about what could happen to this very special spot if this bill is passed. There need to be many decisions made about the future of Caneel Bay. We are not supporting any ideas or plans or schemes. We just do not want a major bill to go into effect, which will tie up this beautiful site for 60 years, without any restrictions as to the use of the property.
When Mr. Laurance Rockefeller created Caneel Bay & donated it (and other lands) to the National Park Service, a RUE (Retained Use Estate) was granted for the operation of Caneel Bay for 40 years. This RUE expires in 2023… 5 years from now. This RUE is incredibly favorable and there is nothing like it in ANY of the other National Parks. The new Bill before congress is even more favorable.
A few details of Bill HR4731:
- A 60-year agreement that CBI would have control of all 170 acres of Caneel Bay and improvements. Nothing like this is in place in Yellowstone or Yosemite or the Grand Canyon.
- The Federal Government (not the National Park Service) would receive 1.2% of gross revenues for 15 years. But, any monies spent on reconstruction, rebuilding, and improvements, would be deducted from this percentage. Basically, the Park Service would not receive anything for the lease of Caneel Bay.
- Caneel Bay is part of the Virgin Islands EDC (Economic Development Act) and therefore would not pay any significant taxes to the Virgin Islands.
- There are NO restrictions in this bill as to use of the lands. High rise condos? Time share? Yurts? Trailers? And NO historical conservation or ecological measures are included. Tearing down the ruins? Dumping sewage in the bays? This is what concerns us the most.
- There are also no guidelines for hiring, staffing, employment, type of operation or details of businesses.
We know that our Delegate put forth this bill because she felt that it was important for St. John and all the VI to have Caneel Bay back in operation. But the terms of this are so outrageous that we feel we must get some help to stop this bill. While we realize that this is a complicated issue and will take time to resolve, the current Bill is not the answer.
All of us have reasons for loving Caneel Bay. It holds special memories for so many for over 50 years. The dream of Mr. Laurance Rockefeller was to have a special place within the National Park that preserved the historical and natural treasures, while providing a healthy business model for the Virgin Islands. This Bill HR4731 goes against those dreams.
Please do whatever you can do from your level to stop this bill from passing in Congress. Forward this letter, call influential friends, sign petitions, talk to your politicians. Many thanks for helping St. John and our lovely Caneel Bay.
Miles and Susan Stair