It’s been a bit since we updated you on the situation over at Caneel Bay. Here is the latest…
As you know, Caneel Bay suffered tremendous damage during the 2017 hurricanes. Virtually no cleanup happened for 18 months, and the property and front entrance remained an eyesore for those passing by. This past March, cleanup efforts began although they haven’t been extensive. Small sales have been happening on property in recent weeks where everything from Kid’s Club items to expensive wine glasses to potentially corked wine is up for grabs.
Gary Engle, of CBI Acquisitions, is the current leaseholder of Caneel Bay. His agreement with the National Park Service expires in 2023. In May 2018, he told a group of residents at a town meeting that he was only interested in operating Caneel Bay if he could get a 60-year extension on the Retained Use Agreement that he is currently operating under. (His current Retained Use Agreement allows Caneel to operate virtually tax-free. They also do not pay rent for the 170 acres it sits on.) In late 2017, USVI Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett introduced a Bill into Congress asking for a 60-year RUE extension, and it failed last year.
Fast forward to this past weekend. The Virgin Islands Daily News reported that Engle and CBI Acquisitions want out. And this little blogger could not be happier, and I’m pretty confident that several other St. John residents feel the same. But Engle’s demands are ridiculous.
According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, Engel is “demanding $70 million to prematurely ditch the resort’s stewardship agreement with the National Park Service, and protection from any environmental liability.” The newspaper cited Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett as the source of that information.
Engle received a substantial insurance payout after the hurricanes, and now he wants an additional $70 million to walk away. And what does St. John get? A destroyed resort? Please tell me where the logic is here.
I say we take that $70 million and require Engle to divvy it up between the hundreds of locals who are no longer working at Caneel because he refuses to rebuild.
Now let’s talk about the “environment liability” Engel referenced in his letter referenced above. This little blogger reported on that very thing back in October 2018 when writing about why lease negotiations have failed. Check it out:
I ditched my real reporter hat more than a decade ago, but this little blogger only prints facts.
The Virgin Islands Daily News could not obtain a copy of Engle’s letter. They did, however, print a statement from Engle himself:
Now please go back and reread that statement…
Engel attempted to get a 60-year RUE extension through Congress and failed. Now he is attempting to circumvent Congress and get a 60-year extension using the Department of the Interior. Not cool Engle, not cool.
And now Caneel is an “eco resort” as indicated in his statement? Well that’s the first I’ve ever heard that. Funny, there’s not one mention of it being an eco resort on its website either… A new tactic perhaps?
Regarding the comments about us “suffering” – we’re not. This island has been bustling. Restaurants are full. Vacation rentals are full. Our charter boats are full. Our beaches are full. We’re fine Engle. We don’t need you personally. We’d rather wait to have someone who actually cares about this island to renovate and operate Caneel Bay.