NPS Denies Authority To Approve Maho Bay Estate Development

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Stormwater runoff across the North Shore Road washed out a large chunk of Maho Bay beach October 5.

The National Park Service (NPS) has informed New York billionaires James and Marilyn Simons that they could not grant permission for the requested dock, roadway diversion and wetlands drainage for Estate Maho Bay, according to Joe Kessler, president of Friends of the V.I. National Park.

“At this point the Park Service is waiting to hear from Simons about whether he is going to continue negotiations for the Maho land,” said Kessler. “Basically the conditions that Simons had are not on the table now.”

11 Undivided Shares
The heirs of Herbert Marsh own seven of the 11 undivided shares of the 440-acre property inside the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP), the NPS owns three of the shares and the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit company dedicated to land conservation, owns one.

The Kean family has been in litigation with the NPS to subdivide the land to make it eligible for sale, but the case is still pending.

The Simons have been negotiating with the Kean family, the NPS and the TPL for the property and had a number of demands, including diverting the North Shore Road so it wouldn’t run parallel to Maho Bay beach, constructing a private dock in the bay, acquiring the NPS and TPL shares of the land and draining wetlands in the area, according to Kessler.

In return for the NPS and TPL shares, Simons was proposing to place the shares, which total 160 acres, into an environmental easement along with an additional 80 acres of land.

Most recently, the NPS wrote a letter to Simons stating that there “was no way they could grant permission to the dock, roadway and wetlands” demands, Kessler added.

“They (NPS) said that they have no authority to grant the conditions unilaterally,” said Kessler. “If he wished to purchase the land, he could then seek permits for the road, wetlands and dock.”

No Authority To Grant Conditions
Each condition outlined by Simons would take years of environmental impact studies and permitting phases, the Friends president continued.

Kessler would have preferred a stronger statement from the NPS, but said he is pleased with the situation thus far. “I would have liked a stronger statement from the Park Service saying they would never support this, but it seems they are being diplomatic and probably more legally correct,” said Kessler.

No Comment from NPS/TPL
The NPS and TPL have remained mute on the Estate Maho Bay issue. “Negotiations are confidential,” John Garrison, regional director for TPL, told St. John Tradewinds in August. V.I.N.P. Superintendent Art Frederick would not comment about Estate Maho Bay.