Help Save the Conservation Land in Fish Bay

Help Save the Conservation Land in Fish Bay

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Estate Fish Bay Owners' Association, Ltd started this petition to Petition to Lieutenant Governor to Issue Tax Clearance Letters for Conservation Property at Fish Bay

The undersigned Virgin Islands residents and taxpayers living in Fish Bay, St. John, and elsewhere (with their addresses shown below alongside their signatures) hereby petition and request the Lieutenant Governor to cause the Tax Assessor to withdraw its demand for payment of taxes on conservation land and remove the notice of assessment that it has wrongly filed on multiple conservation parcels.

All of this land is required to be tax-exempt under Virgin Islands law through the tax exemption provided for conservation property. (33 VIC 2355a)  We, therefore, request that the Tax Assessor correct its records for these parcels, including by removing all tax assessments for them on the VI Property Tax website. Furthermore, we request that the Tax Assessor remove all amounts shown as owing for these parcels and issue tax clearance letters for them forthwith.

The land in question is conservation land in Fish Bay, St. John, including about 40 acres of mangroves, community gardens and trails, which has been owned by the Nature Conservancy and Island Resources Foundation (IRF), both nonprofit groups, for many years. Now, IRF is dissolving and needs to transfer its property as soon as possible to another qualified nonprofit entity, the Trust for Virgin Islands Land (TVIL). 

This transfer will have many benefits for the community, including preserving open space / green space and recreational areas benefiting everyone on St. John, as these 40 acres of land are already being widely used by the community for community gardens, hiking, climbing on the rocks of the gut, swimming and wading in pools, etc. They also include sensitive mangrove areas and historical resources, which benefit the entire community by remaining in their natural and undeveloped condition.

Nevertheless, the Virgin Islands Tax Assessor (Ira Mills’ office) has been unwilling to issue tax clearance letters for this purpose, even though the transfer has satisfied all requirements, including a letter from the Commissioner of DPNR certifying that the land is suitable conservation land. (Indeed, it has been used that way for many years.)  Despite promises of further review, the Tax Assessor has continued its non-response and refusal to cooperate. (In fact, the Tax Assessor has at times demanded that one or more parcels of conservation property be provided to the government as payment for “unpaid taxes.”)

We believe the Tax Assessor’s opposition towards this conservation land is shortsighted. Not only does it benefit the whole community by having natural acres with hiking and other recreational land available for everyone to use, but it increases the remaining VI tax base. Conservation land improves the property values of the community it is in because of proximity to green space, so the overall tax assessment is not reduced. Having green space nearby is part of what brings people to St. John and makes the land as valuable as it is; reducing the green space would reduce the tax base.

Accordingly, we, the undersigned residents of Fish Bay and elsewhere on St. John, hereby request that the Lieutenant Governor cause the Tax Assessor to correct its records as above and allow the transfer to TVIL to take place by issuing tax clearance letters and otherwise.

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