Takeaways From the Caneel Meeting

April 2018

As promised, here is a quick update from last night’s meeting regarding the future of Caneel Bay…

  • The room was packed with a mixture of Caneel Bay employees and members of the community.
  • Congresswoman Stacy Plaskett, who authored the proposed Bill to extend Caneel’s Retained Use Agreement (RUE) for 60 years, did not show up.
  • The audience overwhelmingly stated that they wanted Caneel to reopen as a resort. Caneel remaining a resort appears to be a non-issue. It’s the terms of their new lease that’s the issue.
  • Caneel representatives said they are only interested in a 60-year lease. When pressed about potentially agreeing to say a 30 or 40 year lease, they maintained their stance on a 60-year lease.
  • Caneel maintained that the most expeditious way to reopen Caneel was to have the 60-year RUE extension. Joe Kessler, president of the non-profit group Friends of the VI National Park, staunchly disagreed and stated that the Caneel should follow Congress’s 2010 recommendation which calls for the lease to go out to the highest bidder as a concession agreement. He stated that this should be occurring now, rather than waiting to see if Congress may or may no pass the proposed Caneel Bill. (Click here to read that Act.)
  • Several Caneel employees expressed displeasure with CBI Acquisitions, Caneel’s current operator, saying that the company treated them poorly before and after last fall’s hurricanes. Caneel representatives acknowledged that they’ve made mistakes in the past.
  • Several employees expressed displeasure regarding Caneel’s yearly seasonal closure, in which CBI Acquisitions lays off nearly half (if not more) of its employees, forcing them to collect unemployment during Caneel’s closure. Pam Gaffin, a longtime St. John resident, stated that this is forcing the Virgin Islands Unemployment Fund “to tank” and that it is also forces all Virgin Islands businesses to pay an additional $175 per person, per year so Caneel can lay off its employees.
  • Pam Gaffin also reiterated how Caneel does not pay any taxes to the Virgin Islands government and that it is in violation of its EDC agreement with the Territory.
  • The term “union busting” was thrown around quite a bit. An employee who represents Caneel’s union stated that all union employees received a letter stating that they would only receive severance benefits after the storms if they signed the letter which essentially terminated their employment, not allowing them to be brought back to work when Caneel reopened. It was stated that non-union employees received their severance without being asked to sign the letter. Caneel representatives denied having knowledge of this.

My takeaway from last night’s meeting: This is going to be a long and arduous process.

29 thoughts on “Takeaways From the Caneel Meeting”

  1. The CBI operators at Caneel Bay are bad people and are interested in only one thing – continuing to line their velvet pockets with more gross profit margin, made off the back of the public (who they routinely disrespect), the VI gov’t, and the Park, These people need to have their absurd, rip-off, proposal stuffed, for them, so that a new operator – folks who have a genuine interest in being a part of the StJ and VI community, and who are willing to pay usual and routine business expenses, can take over and get this place reopned.

    • Very disappointed in Delegate Plaskett injecting herself into this situation and representing the interests of CBI over that of the Virgin Islands people, Gov’t and interests.

      • Regarding Delegate Plaskett, I’ve said in the past about her “relationship” with CBI: If it looks suspicious, sounds suspicious, feels suspicious, then it probably IS SUSPICIOUS.

        • Just what I thought. She should have had the guts to come to that meeting.Having her not show up speaks volumes!

    • Regarding Delegate Plaskett, I’ve said in the past about her “relationship” with CBI: If it looks suspicious, sounds suspicious, feels suspicious, then it probably IS SUSPICIOUS.

    • Very well stated Brion, and right to the point. The one thing you left out is a request for an investigation into Ms Plaskett’s possible self gains received from CBI for her “cooperation”——–something here really stinks.

  2. I absolutely agree, the management at Caneel are horrible individuals who do not care about employees, just their own pockets.

    Bring in a more reputable operator and get rid of their ridiculous deal of paying no taxes. We need an operator that truly cares about the island, the people, and the resort.

  3. A solution to Caneel Bay must come quickly so that everyone affected can plan for their respective futures. Everyday adds to the misery of everyone. Please resolve your differences in a timely manner.

  4. The Caneel resort is vital to the island, that much is understood. Caneel looks pretty bad at the moment and there’s doubt that it can be made habitable in 6 months. But we shouldn’t be shortsighted.

    The Government leaders should open this up to multiple bidders and allow any interested private investors to have their input. Whatever decision is made, it is a VERY long term decision so you’re sleeping in whatever bed is made of the current status.

    The Caneel offer of renewing the RUE will always be on the table because it is favorable to their side. Who wouldn’t want a resort with no competition at the lowest cost imaginable?

    The question becomes for how long is the Island interested in going without a resort there. One can assume it would take several years before a new ownership with new vision is brought in and rebuilds this historic resort.

    • Let’s not be short sighted. Whatever time it takes NO one should have a 60 year lease and hurt the residents and visitors with a sweetheart deal No 60 year deal. It will work out without CBI. Get rid of them.

  5. I will be bringing this to the attention of Senator John Cornyn and Rep John Carter. I think once they realize things like the fact Caneel’s seasonal layoffs are shouldered on the govt, they may pay attention

  6. Seems like the people of the Virgin Islands have two choices…
    Go with CBI and give them the 60 years, or for the lease to go out to bid and possibly find a new owner.
    The fear, is that it will take a very long time for the latter to happen! Do you want to wait?
    There’s a lot of money that has to go into the repair of Caneel! Seems like CBI is playing poker!

    • I think you are overstating what kind of say the people of the Virgin Islands have in this decision. Separately, was there no discussion of CBI’s plans for redevelopment? There was so much conjecture and hand wringing over it, I can’t believe that it didn’t come up.

  7. “My takeaway from last night’s meeting: This is going to be a long and arduous process.”

    No doubt….I don’t think you’ll see CBI budge or even consider any other course of action until the non-operation insurance money gets close to running out and I don’t think that happens until September of 2019.

    After that, I guess it’s a game of chicken on when and if Congress ever gets around to voting on the currently proposed bill and the current RUE running out in 2023.

    If any good can come from this delay (as I know of lot of locals are hurting), hopefully it’s that the NPS regains some leverage at the negotiating table. If STJ achieves a new norm without Caneel, then maybe doing the concessions option or even another bidder besides CBI become more of a possibility. My guess is CBI is too smart to let it get that far, but even if everyone was in agreement today, it would probably be another year or maybe two before they could re-open anyway.

    What a mess.

  8. Long and arduous sounds good! CBI can’t be the only game in town. And if the conditions for the workers were so poor, why would anyone work there anyway? Last time I checked things were pretty busy around here. Not a lot of idle hands.

    Look: Sixty years is outrageous. The only thing a sixty year lease accomplishes is raising the re-sale value if the property. Think I’m kidding? Let this go through and it’s a short-hop to having Trump signage on the property …

    Let it go back to nature & give the people that live here and visit a nice park to stroll around in. Maybe in a few years a better suitor will come along.

    Let’s keep St. John the jewel of the USVI.

  9. If they don’t get the 60 yr extension on their RUE are they saying they are going to vacate the property? If they vacate are they required to return the property to a comparable state to which they took it over or can they leave all the destruction behind? They have insurance on those structures, I would hate to see them take the money and cut ties without cleaning up, but a 60 yr extension to a RUE that was supposed to be up in a few years in unreasonable.

    • Usually a lease requires the vacating tenant to leave the premises in the conditions in which they were accepted, excepting wear & tear. Without seeing the RUE it’s hard to know but you bring up a good point.

  10. Best solution would be to deport Plaskett and her merry CBI friends from the islands before it’s too late. Seriously, there’s got to be a legal way to bring in new bidders.CBI does not have an automatic right to a 60 year lease unless the infamous Plaskett bill becomes law. If a 60 year lease is not offered, as it should not be, then the company will withdraw and will have to vacate. And leave the property in the condition it found it or whateer the RUE requires. Hard to say without seeing the legal documents, but it sounds to me like abandoning the grounds and letting them deteriorate should be cause for the Park Service or the government to exercise eminent domain and take over the property. The sooner that happens, the better.

  11. I think the island needs something “like Caneel” however they sound horrible , make them return it to the state it was in when they got it and let someone else come in …. I suggest something along the lines of Mayakoba in Riveria Maya , awesome management and beautiful way of maintaining a natural environment in a resort atmosphere

    • You are 100% correct! Mayakoba is an EXCELLENT example of a great resort with respect for all neighbors, visitors, the environment and employees. CBI should not get a 60 year lease. They suck.

  12. Screw Caneel. I hope they are DENIED any bill..and of course we all want a respectable group to purchase and run the property for ALL St Johnians.. The CBS group are THE WORST.

  13. CBI is a bottom line company which is only good for them no one else. I am shocked that the Virgin Islands government is even considering letting them get away with possibly paying nothing in taxes!!! I’m also amazed they would have someone supposedly representing all of us, NPS, VI Govenment, and the people of St. John, who obviously has none of our interests in mind. If CBI gets their way our government is flushing money down the toilet. It’s hard to understand how this is even being considered! We all need Caneel to come back ASAP but this would be wrong. These hurricanes brought about extreme change, lets make it change for the better.

  14. With all the current support and unity from visitors to St. John with those on island it seems we should be able to raise a louder voice about the issues of our National Park! Caneel is the gateway to the most extraordinary,unique and beautiful US National Park. Why can’t we negotiate into existence a lovely accessible and affordable resort- welcoming to families, a partner in sustaining good jobs on St John, and educational in conservation and ecological tourism? CBI is looking to cut a greedy deal with no promises of betterment for St John. We can do better. If there are avenues of protesting this bought off deal of going through to a greedy Corp. of posh exclusionists- I’d love the info. I’m on the mainland but it’s my park too.

  15. While the unemployment rate on St. John skyrockets and wages plummet, I find on-line that Joe Kessler, Head of the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, advocates for negotiation between Caneel Bay and the NPS that would last years, delaying the reopening of Caneel Bay Resort and the return to work of many Virgin Islanders. Meanwhile he comfortably pulls down $175,000 salary per year. That seems very unfair??

    • The unemployment rate skyrockets?? Wages plummet? I do not believe this is true. There is so much work right now. Sure it may not be what you did before, but there are plenty of job opportunities right now. And people who jumped over to construction, for example, are making much more now than they did before the storm.

      The employees at Caneel have been out of work for eight months. They were laid off in August. If Caneel started construction today, it would be at least another year, if not longer, before it reopens. No one is able to wait around for that. So the thought that reopening Caneel is going to put those people back to work is simply untrue. In addition, Caneel is trying to get rid of the unions, so those workers will never be hired back.

      You know what is delaying the reopening of Caneel? Caneel is. Specifically CBI Acquisitions. They should be negotiating the concessions agreement which Congress made a Public Act back in 2010, rather than hoping Congress will pass a Bill.

  16. let me agree and disagree in part.

    Competitive bidding must happen.

    But the 60 year lease? I think that is reasonable. Suppose you just bought a house that needed lots of repairs. But you are told that after a fixed amount of time you will have to buy it all over again in a competitive market. How much money and time will you put into the work? It depends on when you have to give up the home, but sooner or later you will surely let some things deteriorate. With 20 years left, you might not add a new wing to the home. With ten years left, you stop worrying about the driveway and the roof. Etc.

    Long leases provide better incentives for maintainance and development. Maybe 60 years is too long, but 30 is surely too short and maybe 100 years is even better. Future generations will be glad that Caneel is not going through a repeated cycle of rebuilding and falling into disrepair over the terms of multiple leases.

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