Seven senators in the Virgin Islands 33rd Legislature — Oakland Benta, Marvin Blyden, Novelle Francis, Donna Frett-Gregory, Myron Jackson, Javan James and Steven Payne — ignored the written objections and documentations presented to them by the legal owners of five of seven shoreline properties and instead voted to give a non-owner — Chaliese Summers and Rick Barksdale, operating as Summers End Group — permits to construct a large marina.
In addition to all else, those senators ignored the fact that the project and property rights are the subject of numerous current lawsuits.
The disputes began five years ago after Summers End obtained two St. John CZM Committee permits based on Chaliese Summers’ claim that she had the authority to develop a marina on land she did not own. Those approvals are the subject of lawsuits pending in Superior Court. In 2016, the Virgin Islands Board of Land Use Appeals ordered Summers End to consolidate the two permits into one, but Summers End did nothing.
Instead, Summers End enlisted the assistance of Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., who stepped in and unilaterally modified various provisions of the permits — at their request and without any review by CZM, DPNR, or any other agency.
We believe the Governor lacks the authority, under Virgin Islands law, to modify unapproved CZM permits to suit the wishes of a developer. This action is now being litigated in V.I. Superior Court pursuant to a lawsuit filed in July 2020 by Save Coral Bay, a St. John nonprofit organization. The court recently denied Governor Bryan’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
To the seven senators who voted for Summers End’s permit, all I can say is: “Shame on you.”
— David Silverman of St. John is president of Save Coral Bay Inc.