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Land Authority To Expropriate Vieques Project’s Land For Some $687,000

Might Spell End Of Ecotourism Project That Would Create 500 Jobs


May 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Puerto Rico Land Authority will proceed with the expropriation of 4.3 cuerdas (one cuerda equals 0.97 acres) owned by Roberto Brambilla in Vieques, despite his efforts to develop an ecotourism project at La Casa del Frances that could produce more than 500 new jobs for the municipality.

The land to be expropriated is in the southern part of the project site, next to the oceanfront, where Brambilla envisioned building a marina. Brambilla claims that without the beachfront area, his project couldn’t be successful.

On May 21, Land Authority Executive Director Jose Orlando Fabre Laboy sent Brambilla a letter informing him that, as a result of meetings with Vieques Mayor Damaso Serrano after the agency’s first expropriation attempt in April, the agency would continue with the acquisition of Brambilla’s property. The Land Authority is offering Brambilla $686,784 for the property, which would probably fetch millions of dollars on the market. Expropriation by the state is a mandatory process that can’t be disallowed.

According to the letter, the Land Authority seeks to develop a fishing village and two additional unidentified projects. Brambilla’s previous attempts to see the official permits for the fishing village that Serrano had promised his constituents had failed.

"Until last week, I was working with central-government agencies to get the necessary permits to begin construction this summer. My permits are stuck in ARPE [the Regulations & Permits Administration], and we had been working on their release," said Brambilla. "For the past three months, we have attempted to meet with Mayor Damaso Serrano to try to offer him a way to save face and to discuss the various issues related to planning the future of Esperanza. Unfortunately, he has declined to meet with us and has forbidden Jose Marcano, his planning consultant, to discuss the Esperanza projects with us. Obviously, he is afraid that by meeting with us, he will lose the support of the radical left, and he can’t afford to lose their votes. This attitude, unfortunately, doesn’t help Vieques.

"How can a responsible municipality publicly boycott a project that will attract thousands of new visitors to Vieques, produce hundreds of new jobs, and fully comply with the recommendations of Estudios Tecnicos’ master plan?" continued Brambilla. "This is a crucial time to ensure that Vieques’ natural resources...aren’t compromised by projects that only satisfy short-term political objectives."

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS recently learned that economic consultants working for consulting firm Estudios Tecnicos, which is working on the master plan for the sustained economic development of Vieques and Culebra, had approved of Brambilla’s Casa del Frances project, which Serrano vehemently opposes. They also opposed the development of Serrano’s fishing village and of a recreational village (centro vacacional) on Sun Bay Beach proposed by the National Parks Co. and the municipality of Vieques.

Estudios Tecnicos President Jose Joaquin Villamil said that despite any findings or preferences of consultants on the master plan for the economic development of Vieques and Culebra, the company’s task is to offer suggestions on the kinds of activity, not specific projects, that the government should encourage.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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