Threats of legal action were among the show of no-support regarding a proposed $70M five-star hotel and marina development at Havers. Although the project developers on 3 February gave positive assurances about their grand plans, there were few supporting.
During the meeting on 3 February at the Valerie O. Thomas Community Center in Sea Cow’s Bay, the proposed development was presented by Mr. Dion Stoutt, the design consultant and an investor. According, to Mr. Stoutt, the presented plans include a phased seaside development that features a 55 slip full service marina, a 60 room five star hotel and a 60 room oceanfront condominium complex. It was stated that work on phase one of the project was expected to commence by April of this year.
Answers to questions were even entertained by Chief Planner, Mr. Gregory Adams who was in attendance. However, the project was still given the thumbs down by residents. Persons even threatened legal actions in the form of an injunction if the project is approved by the Planning Authority.
The threats and opposition stem from environmental concerns, and claims that there is an ongoing land dispute involving the proposed property. The dispute was made known by a member of the family that stated claim, Vanciko Francis. He said: “We intend to file an injunction to stop this project… We are not going to allow it to move forward.”
According to Mr. Francis the property was owned by his family since 1846. He explained that someone bought the adjoining land, crossed the boundaries that divide the two properties and caused the lingering dispute.
“We will prove that the land was taken from us because that land was bought in 1846…So the boundaries claims were all the way down to the sea…There was no road then, the access was the sea, but they took it away from us…It was taken illegally and fraudulently, and we will be filing that injunction as soon as we can,” Mr. Francis announced.
Another family member corroborated the statement: “We will be filing an injunction to stop the project and we have already engaged our lawyers…We have been fighting this for years. A lot of development tried to go there, but injunctions were put to fight it and we intend to fight it…It passed four different owners and besides, that area is not the right place for it; there will be too many disturbances.”
“I want to know with all the areas on Tortola, why would you choose an area with a coastline to build a marina to disturb the natural habitat. I personally think it’s an insult for you to construct buildings on that coastline in front of us for that magnificent view we have…I am going to tell you that you have a rude awakening if you put something like that there. It is going to cost you in the long run…You are going to have a lot of confrontation, including from my family. I think you need to reconsider that plan or abort the idea,” someone else said.
Residents stressed environmental concerns in their opposition of the plans stating that the project did not appear environmentally sound. One resident told the developers: “My main concern is the inhabitants; fishes, the reef in that area. You said you were going to remove the corals and have them replanted somewhere else; even that is a harm to the ecosystem…The boats will be back and forth and are going to disturb the reef that is right there…And then there are the fishes…Do you understand that is our livelihood.”
Environmental Consultant for the project, Louis Potter attempted to alleviate the environmental fears of the residents by stating: “Where the project is going there is no fish in that area…So there will be minimum damage/exposure.” However, the opposing continued.
Some residents even cited concerns that the proposal changes the BVI landscape and brings a Miami like feel, which they suggested was against the ‘nature’s little secret’ philosophy: “This does not look like BVI. I have people that come here and the reason why they come here is not because of a place like this [proposed project]…This looks like Florida…We have such a beautiful island. It’s an abomination…You ought to take that and put it in Miami,” one resident declared.
There were some supporting views, amidst the nays. One such view was from a resident who said: “I am tired of this kind of talk anytime there is a development. We knock down everything…You want to come in our country and tell us how to run our country. Give us a chance — airport, cruise pier; the same problem. A five-star will bring opportunities for us, bring income…You live on top of the hill and you fence around your building and put private property.”