Caneel Revs Up Its PR Campaign

Caneel Entrance March 4 2019

Caneel Bay, March 4, 2019

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday! We’ve made it halfway through the week … yay! So the folks who run Caneel Bay have revved up their public relations strategy over the past week or so, and to be honest, we don’t really know what to make of it. Here’s what we know…

As we told you earlier this month, cleanup has finally started at Caneel. Click here to read all about that. I continue to see workers there everyday, which is great.

Caneel Bay sent a letter last week to past guests. The letter states that Congresswoman Plaskett plans to reintroduce the Caneel Bill, which is one of the greatest sweetheart deals in modern history. If she reintroduces the exact Bill, it essentially says that the investment group will pay next to no taxes or rent for longer than yours truly will be alive, longer than most of you will be alive. It’s ridiculous. Fortunately, as of today, the Bill has not been reintroduced. And if it does get reintroduced, let’s hope that Plaskett actually starts listening to her constituents.

Here is a portion of the letter. I’m purposefully choosing not to share all of their propaganda.

Caneel Letter to Guests

According to one of the workers on site, they are being tasked with cleanup so the investment group that runs Caneel can reopen 28 rooms and one restaurant. They are doing so in order to sell their “lease” which is really a retained use agreement. I am not sure how truthful that is, but I know many of us would like to see new owners come in, owners that actually care about the community and its residents.

Speaking of residents, kudos to this one who attended Plaskett’s meeting at the senior center earlier this week:

plaskett sign

Caneel began posting pictures of the cleanup on its Facebook page too. When asked about a timeline or the resort’s future plans, Caneel has not responded. So it will send out propaganda, but it won’t engage in a conversation with its guests. Interesting…

It’s important to see Caneel reopen. But it’s also important that the Virgin Islands National Park and the community of St John benefit from its reopening more so than the deep pockets of an investment group from Connecticut.



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35 comments for “Caneel Revs Up Its PR Campaign

  1. Jared
    March 20, 2019 at 8:44 am

    I think it should be noted that this “news” article is heavily biased. The same information can be shared without excessive opinion. Although the deal on the surface is perhaps too sweet for your taste, making this an on or off issue is not a solution. I think most residents want some sort of resolution and creating strong bias editorial opinions under the title of news is really just not the way forward.

    • Karen
      March 20, 2019 at 8:59 am

      It was a great article!

    • News of St. John
      News of St. John
      March 20, 2019 at 9:07 am

      Jared, this is a blog. That is clearly stated here on the website. Blog are based in opinion. If someone is looking for hard news stories, the Virgin Islands Daily News is great. I enjoy reading the VI Consortium as well. I will continue to post my opinion here as I have done for the past six years.

      Ps: the Daily News has posted the exact sort of thing multiple times since the storms.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Robert Newell
        March 21, 2019 at 12:47 pm

        I am a timeshare owner on St John’s and have visited Caneel Bay a few times. Absolutely beautiful ! There should be a bid process on that property and that property should have been cleaned up right after the hurricane regardless of whether the lease would run out in a few years. There is also a lot of poverty on the Island and big corporations should not get tax free breaks . Those rooms rent out for big dollars , who ever takes control should be able to pay their fare share of taxes and help the economy recover and create good paying jobs for the residents! Keep St John’s beautiful and respect the parkland.

    • Philip R Snipes
      March 20, 2019 at 5:19 pm

      It seems to me the current lessor of Caneel should defend itself. I personally believe a bid process should take place – these are public lands. However, if the current lessor believes their is a reason they should be given first choice on leasingthe public property they should be clear on their plans and they should begin an outreach to the public.

  2. Shawn Green
    March 20, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Weird how nothing happened for a year and half, then we have an election, and shovels hit the ground. Wonder how much money was donated to the Plaskett campaign from this group/individuals before they got the green light from our “leaders”. Politicians love to drag things out for this reason. Not that she needed it – running unopposed and getting 85% of the vote. Kinda seems like she can do no wrong there.

    She also got grant money from the federal government in September. Wonder where that money is going – which contractors got the jobs and did they donate? And is any of the “clean-up” being paid for by federal dollars so Caneel can “sell” their lease?

    • David
      March 20, 2019 at 10:21 am

      There is no reason for graft here. Plaskett ran unopposed in 2016 and 2018. She doesn’t need campaign funds.

      • News of St. John
        News of St. John
        March 20, 2019 at 12:34 pm

        Hi David, I was expecting you today. My favorite attorney. :)

        • David
          March 20, 2019 at 2:02 pm

          I’d have thought that honor would go to Brion. He seems like a fine fellow. I’ll be on island for the week of Thanksgiving and hope to have a drink with him.

      • Larry
        March 20, 2019 at 1:24 pm

        There are lots of perks and “benefits” other than campaign funds—-such as for example: a new car or boat or paid vacations or preferential treatment for family members. I’ve suggested an investigation before, but to no avail.

        • News of St. John
          News of St. John
          March 20, 2019 at 3:50 pm

          Have you reached out to the Daily News?

          • Larry
            March 21, 2019 at 3:31 pm

            Yep. Sent them an email requesting an investigation last night.

      • Shawn Green
        March 20, 2019 at 1:43 pm

        Huh, she did get money from Caneel Bay (#76). Interesting. Oh well, no graft here. Everything is on the up-and-up with the Congresswoman who I am sure is very nice.

        https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/contributors?cid=N00035000&cycle=2018&recs=100&type=I

        • David
          March 20, 2019 at 9:11 pm

          Yes, 1,000. Same as American Airlines and 50 others. You must be kidding.

          • Shawn Green
            March 21, 2019 at 10:24 am

            I understand it isn’t a large amount. I didn’t say it was, or had to be. Just saying so much as a rake didn’t hit the ground there until after a payment was made. CBI didn’t pay anything to Plaskett in 2016 but they didn’t need anything then. Now, they need cleanup and a good deal on a lease.

            Can you go ask the workers there who signs their paychecks? Interested to know if it’s CBI or the government grant-funded contractors.

            Sorry if I came across as being unscrupulous or disingenuous. Not the case, I just asked questions about what is happening. Helps to paint the whole picture. I don’t know what I don’t know, which is obviously A LOT!

  3. Heather
    March 20, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Selling the RUE doesn’t make any sense. Who would buy a 4 year lease on a mostly ruined hotel?

  4. March 20, 2019 at 10:45 am

    This is way more complicated than the author of this page has reported and simply being opposed to Caneel’s call for an extension of their lease to provide $100m in private investment doesn’t make sense.

    The investors for Caneel are proposing investing significant capital in land they do not own to re-open the resort. When you don’t own the land and you’re going to build on it, you need a very long recovery period to make the investment make sense. Even the IRS recognizes that commercial depreciation takes place over a 40 year period.

    Would you invest your $100 million, if you had it, on property you didn’t own without guarantees that for the useful life of the buildings you build and repair you will be able to recoup the cost?

    It could be that the deal is too much of a sweetheart deal and the proposed lease should be extended for 40 years or something like that. Or maybe more provisions need to be added. But ramping up opposition to the investment company isn’t going to do any good, unless you want to return Caneel to be strictly a national park with no buildings or resort on it. (If that’s the goal, the people should simply say so).

    Otherwise, it’s not so clear what the right path forward is. The author of this page has long wanted Caneel to “clean up” the place, despite dubious return on investment and the fact that the National Park owns the land.

    I see this as a very complex situation that needs to balance both interests, and it would be more helpful to hear specifically what the St. John community specifically proposes to offer (in terms of a long term lease) the Caneel investors. Maybe the answer is that they get the lease, but within that lease there is an escrow set-aside for future hurricane damage or something like that, so that the property can be returned to functional within 12 months of a disaster without dealing with the lease extension.

    I don’t know, but as it stands, mostly this just sounds like bad apples.

    • News of St. John
      News of St. John
      March 21, 2019 at 3:26 am

      Yes, it is a complicated situation and we have “reported” on the kitty gritty any times. This post was simply about them revving up their PR campaign.

      I believe that St. John community has repeated stated that we would like to see the NPS and CBI negotiate the 40 year lease, which was passed an an act of Congress roughly 10 years ago. That lease has the best interests of St. John and the National Park in mind. It also calls for CBI or whatever group that holds the lease to pay an appropriate amount of rent and taxes.

      • David
        March 21, 2019 at 7:59 am

        Not to challenge my position as your favorite lawyer, but the 2010 law merely authorized the DOI to negotiate a lease with CBI, and only CBI, not to exceed 40 years. Presumably, any lease would call for a market rent as did the Plaskett bill when it was voted out of committee (with offsets for expenses, and I’d agree that the language there was so vague that it could easily be abused, but that can be fixed). It is unlikely that a lease would address EDC status as whether CBI qualifies for it is an entirely separate issue.

  5. Sonya Gorman
    March 20, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Your blog has been so informative. Has the Virgin Islands National Park and St. John community benefitted in any way from The Westin re-opening?

    • Gina
      March 20, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      I would say at least indirectly yes. We stayed at the Westin the first week of March. We grocery shopped at Dolphin and Starfish markets. We ate out at restaurants Dog House Pub, Skinny Legs, Greengos, The Tap Room, North shore Deli. We had a private all day boat charter out of Coral Bay(Flyaway Charters), we went diving with another local business(Busy Bee charters). We bought souvenirs at several places, we also went on a non-private boat trip(Cruz Bay Watersports). So I would say the island has benefited from the Westin reopening.

      • Dean Bordner
        March 20, 2019 at 11:26 pm

        I agree with Gina. I am a long time owner at the Westin and brought 3 friends for a week in January. The second week open. We shared in restaurants, groceries, chartering Saltydaze boat charters the owners being friends we met while living in Delray Beach Florida and who helped us get containers of goods together right after the hurricane to send to STJ. Nice to know the generator we sent is still being put to good use. Being an owner it felt good to be able to contribute even though we couldn’t get there last year but we wanted to come back as soon as possible to help. People at the Westin were happy we were there and we were as well. So yes I can say the Westin reopening is a good thing.

  6. Eduardo
    March 20, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Your readers might find the second half of the letter you omit more informative than the first. I know I did, I signed up for the FULL update. Otherwise I visit your blog everyday (then spend a few minutes at Soggy,) and have appreciated your coverage pre and post Irma but….wow, its as if they haven’t done ANY good for the island. See you in May.

    • News of St. John
      News of St. John
      March 20, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks Eduardo. I just don’t want to perpetuate their propaganda which is why I posted a section.

      • Betsy Williams
        March 20, 2019 at 3:03 pm

        What you consider propaganda, others may not . I think the fair thing to do is post the whole letter or nothing.

        • Marketta
          March 21, 2019 at 9:50 am

          Betsy, you can see the entire letter on other websites, like statesidestjohnians.

        • Roger C Zoebisch
          March 21, 2019 at 11:07 am

          Betsy, “Fair” is what we have in New England to judge livestock. A Blog is typically observations about what is going on and opinions about how things are going.
          It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that there is an organized effort to discredit this Blog, which is your right. But much to her credit, News of St John publishes the comments any way.
          I Really appreciate her position, and I wonder if the opinions cut a little too close to the bone for the carpetbaggers from Connecticut.

          • Roger C Zoebisch
            March 21, 2019 at 11:13 am

            In my opinion, the best thing that could happen is for the beautiful land and its magnificent beaches and historic ruins revert back to the National Park Service at the end of the lease, where all of the Residents and Visitors to St John could enjoy them, just as the Rockefellers intended it when they put this whole thing together.
            Most {not all} of the locals who worked there have come to the States, found work at the Westin or in Cruz Bay, or on St Thomas.

          • Minnesota Mike
            March 22, 2019 at 1:53 pm

            We all need to play nice in the sandbox. Maybe a time out is in order for some shooting stars or bushwackers!

  7. Minnesota Mike
    March 20, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    The Donkeys must be furious.

    • Marketta
      March 21, 2019 at 9:51 am

      LOL! They moved to Cruz Bay.

  8. Sue & Burt
    March 20, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks! Keep us posted if letters/comments are needed.
    Our recent week over in Coral Bay with family was WOW!!
    Lots of progress. Good eats at Longboard and Esther’s
    Pink Ekaete. Already planning for March 2020 on “Love
    City” .. our 10th St. John visit.

  9. Betsy Williams
    March 20, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    I was in St. John a week or so and really missed having Caneel Bay open. Whether or not they pay taxes, they do pay a $10 million payroll which is good for the employees. The resort also brings in tourists which is good for the island economy. Just having a place that beautiful and eco friendly is a service to the guests of the resort so I really hope they re-open soon. Caneel has also been housing volunteer relief groups who are helping all over the island which is a good thing. I hope taxes don’t stand in the way of something with so much potential good.

  10. Marco
    March 20, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    I half agree with your last sentence. It IS important for the National Park and the people of St. John to benefit. But isn’t the “deep pockets of some investment group (from Connecticut)” exactly what you want to rehabilitate the resort? Who else is going to do it? Well on second thought- maybe Sumner Redstone. He was sitting at the next table last time I ate at Zoe Zoes. He could probably write one check for the whole rebuild and it wouldn’t hurt him one bit!

  11. Pam
    March 22, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Roger, I couldn’t have said it better myself! Agree with you 100%. Jen, keep on blogging, I read everyday, you are the best!

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