Home News Local news Leylon Sneed Attorney Presents Environmental Business Plan

Leylon Sneed Attorney Presents Environmental Business Plan


March 3, 2008 — A controversial plan to establish a floating bar and restaurant in a marine reserve and wildlife sanctuary off the southeast shore of St. Thomas has largely been misunderstood, says a lawyer for the Leylon Sneed project.
Attorney Marshall Bell is countering the notion put forth by one of his clients that they are interested in establishing the Leylon Sneed as a nightclub in Christmas Cove. Instead, Bell told the Source in anticipation of Tuesday's public hearing before the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Committee, the motivation in seeking a CZM permit for the business is largely environmental.
"They want this to be an environmental activity first, then an educational activity and then the economics are what allow you to do it," Bell said. "Maintaining a pristine environment while allowing it to be commercially utilized and educationally utilized — that's the theory behind this thing."
The Sneed's owners are modeling their business plan after several public-private marine park partnerships around the world, particularly Chumbe Island Coral Park in Tanzania, according to Bell. The partnerships have enabled a government either lacking in funds or personnel to protect the reserve through the services of a commercial establishment, he said.
Bell said he's not sure why Delbert Parsons, one of the five owners of the Leylon Sneed, told the media he was interested in operating a nightclub.
"He believes Christmas Cove is the crown jewel of St. Thomas, and he wants to do something so this is his legacy … and the legacy of the other four members of the (WT Enterprises) LLC," Bell said. "He wants to try to help the marine environment recover and preserve it."
Bell insisted the bar and restaurant business aboard the 115-foot, three-story Leylon Sneed — featuring an 80-foot floating dock for dinghy mooring — would not increase traffic in the narrow Christmas Cove passageway, the path for ferry boats and sailboats from the St. Thomas Yacht Club. He claims there are already some two dozen boats anchored in the cove any given weekend.
He also dismissed the notion that the establishment would violate noise regulations, saying there would be no live music, and all recorded music would be within the confines of the bottom floor, which is closed and air conditioned.
Leylon Sneed as Monitor and Mentor
WT Enterprises wants to partner with the government, citizens groups and the University of the Virgin Islands to maintain the sanctity of Christmas Cove, Bell said, in part by planting 30 moorings, thus eliminating the threat to coral reefs and other endangered species from boats dropping anchors.
Nevertheless, federal guidelines prohibit the establishment of a commercial enterprise in a marine reserve such as Christmas Cove, according to Roberto Tapia, assistant director of enforcement for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. His department is currently planning to put moorings in Christmas Cove.
"If you wait for the government to put moorings out, by they time they do, you won't have anything to protect," Bell said. "That's why this is presented as a joint, public-private partnership."
In addition, Bell said, the Sneed will accept garbage and sewage from boaters, thus reducing any dumping, and it will provide an educational resource for local students.
"The vessel the Leylon Sneed was originally designed to be a marine academy," said Bell, who envisions offering it as a destination for students from Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School in Savan, where Principal Lisa Hassell-Forde hopes to establish a swimming program next year.
Hassell-Forde has had only one discussion with Bell, she said. While she's not party to the politics of his plan, she said she's always looking for opportunities to enable students to study outside the classroom.
"We live on an island, and in speaking with the kids you'd be amazed how many of them cannot swim, and also how many are unaware of the marine industry," Hassell-Forde said. "I think that's an untapped resource in the community."
Not "Willy T" — Rather "Wild Thing"
Skeptics have tied WT Enterprises with the William Thornton, known as the Willy T, located off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. The Willy T is also a floating restaurant and bar, known for having provided incentives to its customers to jump naked into the water from its third floor.
WT Enterprises has no relation to the William Thornton, Bell said. It stands for Wild Thing Enterprises, the name of an excursion power boat his clients attempted to purchase in 2002.
"They formed WT Enterprises to buy Wild Thing, and then they decided not to get Wild Thing, so when the Leylon Sneed came along, they had an existing company and used that to purchase the Leylon Sneed," Bell explained. "There's no connection at all."
Tom Bolt, who represents Friends of Christmas Cove, a citizens group formed to battle the proposed location of the Leylon Sneed, was not reassured upon learning what the acronym "WT" stood for.
"If it looks like a duck, and smells like a duck, and sounds like a duck — it's a duck!" Bolt said. He claims his clients are also looking to form a public-private partnership to protect the cove, but not with WT Enterprises.
WT Enterprises intends to spend between $500,000 and $1 million to launch the Leylon Sneed, according to Bell, who listed the five principals as Delbert Parsons, Curtis Penn, Clifton Boynes Jr. (whose father owns the ferry service Transportation Services, according to Bell), Mitchell Rivera Samuel and Kirton Irvine Monsanto Sr.
The CZM hearing Tuesday is at 6 p.m. at the Port Authority headquarters, located just east of Cyril E King Airport. A decision on the WT Enterprises permit application is not expected until March 26.
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