After several years on the market at prices ranging from $18 to $24 million, the owners of Thatch Cay — Thatch Cay LLC — have decided to develop the 230-acre island into 49 estate lots, 24 villa lots and 28 flats.
The cay is zoned R-1, and a Coastal Zone Management permit is required for the development, dubbed Thatch Cay Ocean and Beach Club. Thatch Cay’s owners will appear at a CZM public hearing on April 17.
Parcel sizes on the cay, which features a wide range of terrain and elevations, will be from one-half to five acres. Plans have been underway for months, and include hiking trails, protected wetlands, preserved ruins and an amphitheatre.
Thatch Cay LLC, which has owned the island since 2002, will control runoff and the development’s overall impact on the cay, the company’s attorney said.
“We’re going to be using retention systems for water runoff and sedimentation,” said St. John attorney Alan Smith, who is helping Thatch Cay LLC through the CZM process. “One of the other critical things is right now, Thatch Cay has a huge number of goats which have denuded the natural vegetation. When that natural vegetation is given the opportunity to recover, that in and of itself begins to reduce and control sedimentation and erosion.”
The project’s landscaping will also help control sedimentation and erosion problems, Smith added.
The development will be largely self-sufficient when it comes to electricity thanks to a solar/hybrid mini-grid system, which will be augmented by an emergency backup generator and a submarine cable from St. Thomas.
“Technology today is not such that it would enable us to do what we’d ideally like to do, which is have a totally self-sufficient project on the energy side,” said Smith.
The development will also feature state of the art wastewater treatment facilities, underground utilities and water produced by reverse osmosis from seawater.
Electric Cars, Ferry Service
Aside from construction equipment, only electric cars will be driven on the island. Ferry service will connect the development from a small docking facility to various points on St. Thomas.
Emergency services have been considered as well, added Smith.
“We’ve contracted with a company to help us develop a health, safety and emergency services component,” he said. “We will be training full time staff to be first responders on health, safety and emergency issues, and we’ll have working relationships with police, fire and the medical care facilities to enable us to effectively respond. Subsequently, we’ll have relationships with local helicopter services and we’ve looked at providing small pumping equipment for fires.”
Cisterns will be designed to be used as primary water sources for firefighting, Smith added.
Thatch Cay’s owners will subdivide the land and build all the structures, explained Thatch Cay LLC principal Paul Lange. A strict set of covenants will be in place and an architectural review committee will ensure the homes blend in with natural surroundings.
“Extremely Sensitive Project”
“There’s a consistent architectural theme, which we want to be understated and blend in from a materials perspective,” said Lange. “We want it to blend with the island. We have the philosophy of wanting to do a project that is extremely sensitive in every area we could think of as it relates to the environment, and we also needed to confirm that the project could work and compete in the broader market.”
In addition to being sensitive to the environment, the development will infuse life into the local economy by shuttling residents to neighboring islands where they can take advantage of shopping, dining and other entertainment.
“It will develop substantial revenues and benefit the entire Virgin Islands through taxes and employment and simply attracting folks to the V.I. who will then spend money while they’re here on St. Thomas and St. John on goods and services,” said Smith. “On the same token, it will not have a direct and adverse impact on neighboring property values on St. Thomas and St. John, because it stands alone.”
Buyers at Thatch Cay Ocean and Beach Club will primarily be those looking for second homes, and the majority of buyers will not reside at the property full time. It remains unclear whether buyers will be able to rent their Thatch Cay Ocean and Beach Club homes.
Vacation Rentals Possibility
“We haven’t closed the door on vacation homes, but we will not have timeshares or fractionals,” said Lange. “We haven’t solely decided on whether we’ll allow rentals, but they would be on a minimum time basis if we did. We’ll have to ascertain whether that’s a significant demand on behalf of the residents and buyers and to the degree that it is, it’s something we would consider accommodating.”
Pricing on the homes has not yet been confirmed, Lange added.
St. Thomas architect and Thatch Cay LLC principal Robert deJongh anticipates permits will be secured within the next few months, and the project will take approximately 10 years to construct.
“We have an excellent project which works well with the Virgin Islands community,” said deJongh. “It’s a project that compliments what we do here in the Virgin Islands and adds significantly to our tourism product. We’re doing this in a way that does not displace any current legitimate activity which takes place in the offshore region of Thatch Cay, and we look forward to it being a successful and positive addition to the V.I. community.”