CRUZ BAY ? Who will be the next St. John Administrator?
By tradition, de Jongh Administration Administrator Leona Smith will be getting a well-deserved rest when she leaves office December 31 as the Mapp Administration takes over in January.
Inquiring island minds want to know who will be taking over the office at The Battery and ?runn?n? t?ngs? on St. John, but Mapp Administration officials had no announcement.
The Mapp team is busy putting together a cabinet and could not confirm any candidates for St. John Administrator, according to one insider.
?The focus is on finalizing Cabinet memberts,? the St. John Tradewinds contact said.
St. Johnian Carmen Wesselhoff, a former one-term St. John Senator at Large in between the first and second of Craig Barshinger?s four-terms (Wesselhoff chose not to run for reelection), is being mentioned as a possible choice ? along with a short list of politically-connected and non-government prospects with significantly less business experience than Carmen.
St. Thomas Travel May Be SignMs. Wesselhoff, who was spied entering the post-election celebratory luncheon for Mapp?s St. John supporters at the Waterfront Bistro on Saturday, November 22, has some time on her hands with the car ferry Roanoake, operated by her husband Stanley ?Bubbler? Hedrington, rusting in Enighed Pond since last Spring.
If its any sign, Ms. Wesselhoff is sporting a new short ?bob? haircut ? almost as short as Leona?s signature coif ? and has been spied traveling back and forth to St. Thomas ?dressed for success? and carrying an armload of paperwork.
As Smith vacates her office, she is retaining her ?crown? as St. John Festival Chair, which is a purportedly voluntary, albeit lifetime, appointment ? or sentence.
?I am not sure what I?m going to do next; I?ve got some options,? said Smith, who spent 16 years at the St. John Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs before assuming the post of island administrator for eight years.
Every room at Hawks Nest offers stunning sunset views over Hawsksnest Bay and the Caneel Bay Resort.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself watching the tropical sun dip below the horizon as the sky fills with an orange glow that is reflected off the shimmering water of Hawksnest Bay below.
Now, pinch yourself because you might not be dreaming at all.
The two-bedroom two-bathroom Hawks Nest, located in one of the most breath-taking locations on St. John, is for sale for $1.375 million, explained 340 Real Estate broker/owner Tammy Donnelly.
?This property is all about location, location, location,? said Donnelly.
Hawks Nest is perched about 97 feet above the alabaster shoreline of Hawksnest Beach on the famed North Shore of St. John. The home is nestled amid the lush hiking trails and pristine beaches of Virgin Islands National Park.
From this home, you?ll have your pick of powder white sand beaches upon which to spend your days, without even the need to get behind the wheel of a car.
?From Hawks Nest you can walk to Jumbie, Dennis and Hawksnest Bays,? Donnelly said. ?This is a unique, one-of-a-kind North Shore property.?
Brion Morrisette speaks his mind at the August CZM hearing on the Coral Bay Marina permit application before recusing himself from the hearing. Morrisette stayed through the hearing but did not participate.
CRUZ BAY ? St. Johnian Attorney and long-time St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee member J. Brion Morrisette tried to stay out of the melee surrounding the ?Coral Bay Marina, the Yacht Club at Summer?s End? project and asserts he only acted in the best interest of the panel?s deliberations.
Critics and competitors, through their attorneys, say he didn?t try hard enough and he shouldn?t have acted at all.
Morrisette, who grew up at the entrance to the Virgin Islands National Park overlooking Cruz Bay the site of what is now the restaurant Asolare, keeps getting sucked back in as if he were trying to wade through the muck of the shallow mangrove lining the west shore of the inner Coral Harbor to reach the pavement of Rte. 107.
Now, Morrisette?s monologue of recusal from the three-member St. John panel?s deliberations on the SEG mega-yacht marina plan for Coral Harbor and bantering with the hostile audience at the August hearing on St. John Marina, The Yacht Club at Summer?s End ? and a few surreptitious whispers to St. John CZM chairman Andrew Penn ? have become fodder for environmentalists and bumper-sticker civic-leaders in Coral Bay and competing developers who have hired a gaggle prominent St. Thomas lawyers firing multiple lawsuits of innumerable, and sometimes unnumbered, pages to thwart the project.
?Unlawful? Participation by Conflicted Commissioner Is Alleged?Brion Morrisette, who is one of three members of the St. John CZM Committee, along with his partner, Robert O?Connor, Jr. leases these parcels under two long-term leases granting them possession and the right to develop the properties,? lawyers for the Virgin Islands Conservation Society wrote in an appeal filed November 14.
?Both Morrisette and O?Connor provided a power of attorney to SEG granting it the right to apply for the Permit, as well as other required permits. The power of attorney was submitted to CZM and made part of the file. The right to develop remained in Morrisette and O?Connor. Neither Morrisette or O?Connor signed the application as owners or lessees,? lawyers for The Virgin Islands Conservation Society alleged in its lengthy appeal.
CORAL BAY ? The night before facing veteran Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen in a run-off election for Virgin Islands Governor seat, candidate Kenneth Mapp traveled to Coral Bay to talk with residents opposed to a permitted mega marina.
About 20 residents and members of Save Coral Bay, which formed in opposition to Summers End Group?s planned 145-slip mega marina for Coral Bay harbor, met with Mapp in at a relaxed town hall style meeting at Pickles in Paradise which stretched on for three hours on November 17.
The group, which has an online crowd funding site at www.GoFundMe.com/CoralBay to help cover legal costs, had already met with Christensen, explained David Silverman, a community activist and main organizer of the Save Coral Bay campaign.
?We had met with Donna Christensen before the General Election and had asked her for her views and expressed our community views about the Summer End Group marina,? said Silverman. ?Then it turned out that they were headed to a runoff election and I was urged to reach out to Mapp and invite him out here, which I did.?
Silverman made it clear to Mapp what exactly Save Coral Bay members? main concerns were, he explained.
?Prior to the meeting, I shared with him [Mapp] the questions that I intended to ask,? said Silverman. ?I asked him about Guy Benjamin School and I asked him about sustainable economic development on St. John. And my final question was, if he were elected Governor would he, with the powers that he has under the Coastal Zone Management Act, revoke the permits that had been signed by Governor John deJongh.?
Responding to his stand on the shuttered Coral Bay public elementary school Guy Benjamin School, Mapp explained that education was a top priority, according to Silverman.
?He [Mapp] said that the Department of Education was a top priority and he felt that the community of St. John would best be served by a central school for the island,? Silverman said.
Piles of Sargassum seaweed covered most of Trunk Bay beach last week.
Maho Bay beach was also affected with an influx of Sargassum.
NORTH SHORE ? During what many residents are calling the worst infestation in memory, sargassum levels have grown so abundant in local waters, the weed recently began piling up on V.I. National Park beaches.
Sargassum is a weed which grows in the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. When certain weather patterns interact, the yellow-orange weed is ?burped? out of the Sargasso Sea and carried by air and water currents through Atlantic and Caribbean waters.
While sargassum is not harmful or dangerous, some of the one million visitors to VINP were not thrilled to find their favorite beaches, including Trunk Bay and Maho Bay, blanketed in seaweed.
Last week, VINP officials began alerting visitors to the presence of sargassum. A notice was posted at http://www.nps.gov/viis/naturescience/sargassum.htm announcing that beaches were ?heavily impacted by sargassum seaweed.?
?This naturally occurring event happens along the Gulf Stream and throughout the Caribbean,? according to the VINP on line notice. ?The Sargassum is full of life and home to Sargassum shrimp, Plan-head filefish, crabs, turtles and seahorses. It is full of nutrients and used for fertilizer and building beach dunes.?
Those piles of sargassum that prompted the online announcement, however, were mostly washed out to sea in large swells by week?s end.
?The Sargassum will eventually wash back out to sea or decompose,? according to the VINP website. ?As of 9 a.m. on December 11, 2014, about 80 percent of the Sargassum has washed out to sea with yesterday?s big swells. The rest has been washed up into the tree line or in isolated clumps.?
While most VINP beaches were largely clear of the weed by last weekend, officials were alerting Trunk Bay visitors that sargassum was present on the shoreline.
?It?s piling up everywhere,? said VINP Superintendent Brion FitzGerald. ?From what I?ve been told, we?ve never had it this bad. It was worse three days ago and most of it washed out to sea with the big swells we had.?
V.I. Unity Day Group members filed a temporary restraining order early this month against the territorial government to halt the collection of 2013 property tax bills on St. John.
The group is waiting to hear from V.I. Superior Court on the filing as it maintains that the values of many properties on St. John are unfairly elevated.?The property values that were issued in the 2013 property tax bills are alarming,? said Myrtle Barry, V.I. Unity Day Group?s Property Tax Committee chairperson. ?We have seen property values rise from 120 percent up to 3,600 percent. These values exceed what the property owners can get at a fair market value for their property.?
Barry has been working on the St. John property tax issue since the first wave of court-ordered revaluations were issued in 2006. While V.I. Unity Day Group?s case was eventually dismissed by Judge Curtis Gomez, the 2006 property tax bills were rescinded.
The 2013 bills reflect the new reevaluations, which are also flawed, Barry explained.
?Some of these bills are worse than the 2006 bills which were rescinded,? said Barry. ?We were in this same mess in 2006. You would think by now they would get their act together.?
?The revaluations have to be done correctly,? she said.
The St. John property tax bills are oppressing the island?s people, according to Barry.