Caneel Bay on Conde Nast Traveler list

Caneel Bay
placed 22nd in a list of the Top 25 Caribbean resorts, as chosen by readers in Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s 20th annual reader poll.  In a brief write-up of the resort, Traveler described Caneel as "Charmingly rustic."

Curtain Bluff resort on Antigua was voted number one, while Little Dix Bay, like Caneel, founded by Laurence Rockefeller, placed 2nd.  No resort on St. Thomas made the list of readers’ favorites.

CN Traveler’s list of top Caribbean resorts is here:

Artists Association: new space, new shows

Amanda Smith
, the new Gallery Director for the Artists Association of St. John, is drawing up some big plans. 

Suspecting there’s a little bit of artist in many locals, she’s hoping that, eventually, the group’s gallery will host not only regular exhibits of members’ work but also daily classes.

"Everybody thinks you have to be a pro, but that;’s not true," Smith explained in an interview.  While she started painting nine years ago as a hobby, "When you constantly (keep at it), you improve."  By having classes in many media ranging from oil painting to watercolor to sculpture to jewelry making, she hopes to "reach people who are even just looking for a hobby. I don’t want them intimidated."

You can listen to the interview with Smith.
Press the "Play" arrow.

You can also download or hear the conversation by clicking here.

Smith signed on as Gallery director earlier this year, just as the group was moving from the Marketplace to larger space at the Lumberyard, where Polli’s Mexican restaurant used to be.  The Association has 152 members, most of whom are full-time residents.  Each is given 16 square feet each month to display their work.

Each month’s featured artists are given an entire wall. The current exhibit highlights photography and paintings by Janet Cook-Rutnik.  December will highlight the paintings of Smith, the gallery director, and Lucy Portlock, a watercolorist.  An opening reception is planned for Dec. 13th at 6 p.m.

Smith also plans to open a small art supply shop next month, adjacent to the Gallery, Pirates Paradise Art Supply. Inventory will include "better and best" lines of acrylics, watercolors, oils, brushes, canvases and paper.

The Association’s Web site is

Eliminate property taxes

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  It’s a suggestion from Steve Black, a longtime island resident and thoughtful member of the island community.  For example, Steve’s been deeply involved in the effort to get a new school built on St. John.

Black suggests that homes rented to vacationers should be taxed as commercial properties.  A few years ago, I heard the Territory’s Tax Assessor tell the St. John Rotary Club he liked that idea, too.

The result: even higher property taxes and, equally likely, higher rental rates.

He also thinks the territory’s Economic Development Commission regulations, which extend huge income tax benefits to business owners, should "be designed better to provide a ‘leg up,’ not a lifelong ‘handout.’

In his Guest Opinion for the Virgin Islands Daily News, Black didn’t suggest that home renters are doing anything wrong.  What concerns him is that as real estate values have risen, primarily driven by villa buyers.  That means longtime residents’ homes and assessments are also being pulled higher. 

It is wrong, Black said, "that our homes are burdened by the popularity of tourism and commercial profits instead of being partners in success."

Taxing villas as businesses could happen.  The Territory is in the midst of restructuring its real estate tax system.  The Governor has proposed there be four categories of properties, with different tax ratesJohn deJongh’s idea lumps all homes, rental or not, into the residential category. 

Anything can happen when legislators are in session.  One of them might even have read the Daily News.

Another reason villa rental rates could rise

Owners of rented villas are nervously waiting to see their new tax bills, based on a Territory-wide reappraisal project that took more than a year.  We’ve already seen properties whose assessment quintupled and, at best, face a property tax bill twice or there times what it has been.

Now comes another "gotcha".  The electric company wants to raise rates 30%. 

Remember the story about Tage having a $5,000 a month power bill?  Well, how about another $1,500?  How many more meals would the restaurant have had to serve to generate extra cash to pay that bill?

Villa owners face the same challenge.  Stories about renters who turn on the a,.c,. and then leave the windows open while they take off for the beach are all too common. At our Blue Tang, with two air conditioned bedrooms, a $500 bill for one month is not out of the ordinary.

Homeowners and businesses are angry about WAPA’s push for this rate increase, especially since the utility’s directors also just approved a plan to begin hedging their purchases of the fuel oil their generators use.  Is it conceivable they haven’t be doing this already? Airlines, manufacturers, other utility companies have hedged their needs for years, but WAPA’s just getting around to it – with oil at $92/barrel.  Great!

The Virgin Islands Daily News has a story about the rate hike increase proposal here:

Tage’s Ted is cooking

Chef Ted Robinson
is back at work in the kitchen.  But this time it’s not in his own restaurant.  It’s at St. John’s largest grocery store. 

He’s at Starfish Market, cooking up his own creations for folks on the go who are looking for gourmet takeout, or people who want to spice up (pun intended) dinner at the villa. The accomplished Chef is turning his attention to prepared meals like
Pulled Chicken and Tarragon Salad and a maple Glazed Slow Roasted
Sirloin Wrap. 

"Made fresh daily, Ted’s creations make getting a luxurious lunch or dinner easier than ever before," a news release from Starfish said.

He’s also doing sandwiches, priced from $7.95 to $8.95. They sandwiches are packaged and showcased just to the left of  Starfish’s hot deli case. "Selections may change depending how the cooking spirit moves him," said the news release.