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Expropriation Of Esperanza Beachfront Halted

Vieques mayor insists the wharf will be built


May 6, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Land Authority has, at least for now, put a stop to expropriating the Esperanza beachfront property, owned by the Italian architect Roberto Brambilla who plans to develop a tourism project on this Vieques site.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS obtained a copy of a two-paragraph letter sent on April 29 by the Land Authority Executive Director Jose O. Fabre Laboy in which he notified Brambilla’s company that the expropriation process had been suspended.

Fabre Laboy said the Agriculture Department’s Rural Development Corp., which plans to build the Esperanza wharf, asked the Land Authority to stop the expropriation process. Further details were not disclosed.

On April 29, CARIBBEAN BUSINESS reported a government initiative to build a fishermen’s wharf on La Esperanza beachfront and its efforts to expropriate the four acres of land owned by Brambilla. This would deal a mortal blow to his plans to develop a $150 million ecotourism project.

The Villa Esperanza wharf, an initiative of Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano, is intended for use by the Southern Fishermen Association headed by activist Carlos Ventura. But Carlos Zenon, also a fisherman and Vieques activist, has questioned why the municipal government wants to build a second wharf when one already exists in Esperanza.

"This gives us the opportunity to focus on the [ecotourism] project," said Brambilla, in reference to the Land Authority’s decision. But Brambilla can’t get his hopes up as the authority’s decision may be temporary. CARIBBEAN BUSINESS sources revealed that government officials are still conducting meetings to discuss the wharf’s construction and Brambilla’s project.

Serrano is still determined the fishermen’s wharf will be built in Esperanza. "Vieques Fishermen have my unconditional support and they will have their wharf. That is my commitment as well as the governor’s," said Serrano. "The wharf is part of Vieques’ Rebirth Plan."

Vieques currently has 90 active fishermen, although a full 300 fishermen are registered with the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources, explained Serrano.

Serrano plans to invest $1.5 million—a sum that has already been approved by the central government—to construct a recreational park on the site where a fishermen’s wharf had been located before it was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. "The park will cover some 700 square meters. That area is too small a wharf," said Serrano.

Brambilla plans to restore La Casa del Frances and transform it into a hotel in September. Renovation of the Villa Esperanza Parador, located on the Esperanza beachfront property, is part of the $150 million project.

Brambilla’s partners include viequense Manuel Feliciano, local real-estate expert and founder of Rare Center for Tropical Conservation in Washington, D.C. Vadim Nikitine; and biological design Lindbergh Award winners John & Nancy Todd. They said that La Casa del Frances could create 500 jobs on the for the island municipality.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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