Home News Local news BEAL DEAL BLOCKED

BEAL DEAL BLOCKED

0

Caribbean Space Technologies, an affiliate of Beal Aerospace Inc., and the V.I. government were blocked by a Territorial Court judge Wednesday from implementing their land exchange agreement.
Judge Alphonso Andrews granted plaintiff Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen’s request for a permanent injunction against the land swap that was approved by the Legislature on Oct. 5. The swap would have given CST 14.5 acres of public land known as Camp Arawak in exchange for land it owns in Estate Whim and Grange Hill.
CST, owned by Texas-based land developer and neophyte satellite entrepreneur Andrew Beal, contends that it needs the Camp Arawak land for a portion of its world headquarters and rocket assembly plant.
Hansen and 19 other plaintiffs, however, contend the Camp Arawak land was deeded to the people of the Virgin Islands in 1974 and cannot be traded away. On Oct. 8 Andrews granted Hansen’s request for a temporary restraining order against the land deal.
Andrews ruled Gov. Charles Turnbull violated the public trust when he sent the land exchange agreement to the Senate for approval.
In court on Wednesday, Andrews said he would issue copies of his 52-page decision on Thursday. Instead, the judge cited key elements explaining his opinion. He said his decision didn’t discuss the Legislature’s action or the alleged economic benefits of Beal’s proposal.
Rather, he said the "plain and simple issue in the case is if the proposal of the transfer of the Camp Arawak land is legal."
Andrews explained that the legislative act transferring the Camp Arawak land carried the name CST while the actual land exchange agreement made reference to Beal Aerospace. That was the same reason Gov. Charles Turnbull cited when he allowed the act to become law without his signature at the end of October.
The judge said that as a matter of law, Beal Aerospace and CST are two separate and distinct companies.
"Even though the two companies are owned essentially by the same person by a legal stand point, they possess separate existences. A mere change in the name carries significant legal ramifications," Andrews said. "The bottom line is what the Legislature has done is . . . to attempt an impossibility.
"The reality is there is no assignment" of rights, he said.
Andrews also blasted Attorney General Iver Stridiron for being "disingenuous" when he told Hansen in a letter on Oct. 8 that Camp Arawak was public trust land and then had Assistant Attorney General Michael McLaurin argue in court that the government had no commitment to the property.
"The court finds that argument to be unattainable and disingenuous at best," Andrews said. "The (land exchange)agreement is contrary to the trust."
Finally, Andrews noted that even if there was conformity in the act approving the land exchange, he said the Legislature’s attempt would still be illegal because it would violate the doctrine of separation of powers. He said even though land is being substituted in Estate Whim and Grange Hill, the act doesn’t call for the land to be held as park property by the government.
Andrews said the harm that would be done if the exchange was carried out wouldn’t be mitigated simply because other properties exist. He noted the historical and archeological significance of the Camp Arawak site.
"The harm is all too obvious. The government and CST simply failed to recognize the value of property ownership," Andrews said. "(Camp Arawak) is a place where African ancestors lived and worked. The structures are tangible links. They tell a story of the ancestors’ struggle, which led to their freedom.
"(Transfer) magnifies the harm of the use deprivation of Camp Arawak."

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here