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CruzanIron
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November 5, 2019 8:11 am  

It appears as if this forum has died. I can't find a link to start a new discussion, and if you click the unread posts I only see what I've already read and no new posts for several days or a week or more.  Is it just me?  


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Scubadoo
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November 5, 2019 8:36 am  

There hasn't been a post for a week.  The main forum page shows when the last update was to each topic.

All the posts for the past three weeks show up for me as unread even though I am for sure logged in and read every one of them.  It's been like that now for three weeks.  So something is broken,.  Been meaning to post about that but couldn't remember this thread.  I do see the Add Topic button in the main forum page.  


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jaldeborgh
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November 5, 2019 11:50 am  

I agree, seems very odd, not a single post for a week.  


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vicanuck
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November 6, 2019 7:51 am  
Posted by: @Scubadoo

There hasn't been a post for a week.  The main forum page shows when the last update was to each topic.

All the posts for the past three weeks show up for me as unread even though I am for sure logged in and read every one of them.  It's been like that now for three weeks.  So something is broken,.  Been meaning to post about that but couldn't remember this thread.  I do see the Add Topic button in the main forum page.  

I thought it was just my computer showing "unread" messages.

I actually cleared my cookies the other day and still no change in "unread" status.


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Afriend
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November 6, 2019 11:23 am  

One can speculate on the reasons participation in this forum has declined but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it began when the format was changed and has continued to decline ever since.  

New people aren’t coming to ask questions and it is not the type of forum where “regulars” come to just chat.


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STTsailor
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November 6, 2019 4:35 pm  

Several frequent posters left the forum. While they may have been controversial and provocative they inspired discussion. 
I have been off the island for the summer and hurricane season and was hoping this forum will keep me updated on VI happenings. 

while the forum format has changed i personally do not find it too difficult to navigate. 


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stjohnjulie
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November 7, 2019 3:44 am  

I'm bummed about it.  I really love reading all of the questions, comments, responses.  Especially from the on the other two islands.  


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fdr
 fdr
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November 9, 2019 11:44 am  

This may be an unpopular sentiment but here goes. I no longer participate here because I have a hard time mustering the enthusiasm to help new people move here when so many locals are struggling to earn a living and otherwise restore their quality of life to what it was before Irma.

I can speak only about St John, but housing costs are out of control. Native Virgin Islanders who don't own their homes and/or lack money for repairs and rebuilding have very few choices. But there are plenty of people who can come from the States with some off-island source of income and pay those high rental prices, which keeps the market very tight.

When I moved here 11 years ago, I knew housing availability and affordability were becoming an issue, but overall it seemed like most families and young people had enough work and opportunity to find a place to live -- a bit expensive but not out of reach. Maybe I am wrong about that; it's based on my perspective as a newcomer in 2008, but many people I've talked with here (locals and transplants) seem to agree.

In any case, post-Irma, all of those things -- good jobs, available housing, and rents that aren't completely insane -- are in extremely scarce supply. The effects of that on our community are going to be felt for generations. There are also a number of development projects underway that if approved will dramatically change life as we know it on St John, mostly not in ways that improve life for local people.

For all of these reasons, I believe people who want to move here today ought to take a very long hard look at what they love about the islands and what positive contributions they will have to offer the community of people who call it home, as well as what resources they might be taking up (jobs, housing, parking, etc.). Run your thinking by someone local who is an ancestral Virgin Islander and see what they say. If you don't know any and can't figure out how to connect with someone like this, you may be part of the problem rather than a future asset to this community.

This post was modified 1 month ago by fdr

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Gator's Mom
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November 9, 2019 12:52 pm  
Posted by: @fdr

This may be an unpopular sentiment but here goes. I no longer participate here because I have a hard time mustering the enthusiasm to help new people move here when so many locals are struggling to earn a living and otherwise restore their quality of life to what it was before Irma.

I can speak only about St John, but housing costs are out of control. Native Virgin Islanders who don't own their homes and/or lack money for repairs and rebuilding have very few choices. But there are plenty of people who can come from the States with some off-island source of income and pay those high rental prices, which keeps the market very tight.

When I moved here 11 years ago, I knew housing availability and affordability were becoming an issue, but overall it seemed like most families and young people had enough work and opportunity to find a place to live -- a bit expensive but not out of reach. Maybe I am wrong about that; it's based on my perspective as a newcomer in 2008, but many people I've talked with here (locals and transplants) seem to agree.

In any case, post-Irma, all of those things -- good jobs, available housing, and rents that aren't completely insane -- are in extremely scarce supply. The effects of that on our community are going to be felt for generations. There are also a number of development projects underway that if approved will dramatically change life as we know it on St John, mostly not in ways that improve life for local people.

For all of these reasons, I believe people who want to move here today ought to take a very long hard look at what they love about the islands and what positive contributions they will have to offer the community of people who call it home, as well as what resources they might be taking up (jobs, housing, parking, etc.). Run your thinking by someone local who is an ancestral Virgin Islander and see what they say. If you don't know any and can't figure out how to connect with someone like this, you may be part of the problem rather than a future asset to this community.

High rents are a struggle not only in STJ but in highly desirable communities across the mainland US right now. 

Personally, I remember STJ when it was mostly just Cruz Bay, the national park and Coral Bay was a hippy camp. When I lamented to a West Indian friend 20+ years ago about how significant growth was impacting the island unfavorably in my eyes, I was told it wasn't about me but the future of those same ancestral islanders you talk about.  Essentially, mind my own business (even though I was a STJ landowner at the time). 

What you love about STJ is not what we loved years ago when we left - long before you moved to an already gentrified rock. Make no mistake the ancestral islanders you talk about and their duly elected government officials at the time welcomed the money "progress" brought  20+ years ago.  Now, some of those same ancestral islanders suffers the blow back from this lack of vision. Oh well.

I think it's pretty irreparable at this point because Summer's End or whatever it's being called now is going to happen and change STJ again with multimillion dollar condos and mega yachts. STJ will  reincarnate as someone else's paradise yet again.

Lots of money gonna changing hands.


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jaldeborgh
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November 9, 2019 3:37 pm  
Posted by: @fdr

This may be an unpopular sentiment but here goes. I no longer participate here because I have a hard time mustering the enthusiasm to help new people move here when so many locals are struggling to earn a living and otherwise restore their quality of life to what it was before Irma.

I can speak only about St John, but housing costs are out of control. Native Virgin Islanders who don't own their homes and/or lack money for repairs and rebuilding have very few choices. But there are plenty of people who can come from the States with some off-island source of income and pay those high rental prices, which keeps the market very tight.

When I moved here 11 years ago, I knew housing availability and affordability were becoming an issue, but overall it seemed like most families and young people had enough work and opportunity to find a place to live -- a bit expensive but not out of reach. Maybe I am wrong about that; it's based on my perspective as a newcomer in 2008, but many people I've talked with here (locals and transplants) seem to agree.

In any case, post-Irma, all of those things -- good jobs, available housing, and rents that aren't completely insane -- are in extremely scarce supply. The effects of that on our community are going to be felt for generations. There are also a number of development projects underway that if approved will dramatically change life as we know it on St John, mostly not in ways that improve life for local people.

For all of these reasons, I believe people who want to move here today ought to take a very long hard look at what they love about the islands and what positive contributions they will have to offer the community of people who call it home, as well as what resources they might be taking up (jobs, housing, parking, etc.). Run your thinking by someone local who is an ancestral Virgin Islander and see what they say. If you don't know any and can't figure out how to connect with someone like this, you may be part of the problem rather than a future asset to this community.

I agree with your observations but will add it’s not unique to St. John or the USVI’s.  My family have been summer residents on Martha’s Vineyard since 1939, my kids are 4th generation and in many ways the island is considered home as it’s the one constant in our extended family.  In the late 1980’s we built an 1800 Sqft cape house on land gifted by my parents for $130K, all in, including furniture.   I got a quotes recently to add a 20 X 20 addition, update the kitchen and do some general refurbishment.  They (quotes) ranged from $750K to $1M, not counting the 12 months and $25K+ spent on architecture, surveying, septic and engineering fees to satisfy the towns endless appetite for paperwork.  I’m not exaggerating and there was nothing gold plated.  We canceled the project.

We ended up buying rather than building on St. Croix because everyone we spoke to, without exception, said don’t build, it takes forever, cost overruns will be 40% versus estimates and don’t think of building if your not there every day supervising things.  My wife and I have built 4 houses and a 3 car garage in our 30+ years of marriage.

The special places like St. John are no longer a secret, worse yet they’ve become trendy or fashionable so the sky’s the limit as the Hollywood set, and their following, settle in to the community driving everything upmarket.


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fdr
 fdr
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November 9, 2019 9:29 pm  
Posted by: @Gator's_Mom

What you love about STJ is not what we loved years ago when we left - long before you moved to an already gentrified rock.

@Gator's_Mom, I fell in love with the VIs in the mid 1980s and share your feelings toward its gentrification. Since I didn't mention what I love about St John, I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.


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singlefin
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November 9, 2019 9:34 pm  

fdr - When where housing prices in St. John not out of control? Good paying jobs and housing are usually hard to find in a nature preserve. 


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stjohnjulie
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November 10, 2019 5:43 am  

The housing situation on STJ is pretty desperate.   Even after two years it's rare to see a listing for a rental apartment and when you do see it it's for 50-100% more than what it listed for prior to the storms and people are gobbling them up regardless.  Housing has been tight for quite a while on STJ....but not like this.  It was tough for me to find a place 20+ years ago but not like this.  I don't encourage first timers to come here now.  I have too many friends and family that still don't have a place to live.  

To me, I think the government is who is failing us here.  They are encouraging more and more development and business when we simply don't have the infrastructure to support it.  And the problems with the probate of land/property is keeping native virgin islanders stuck without the ability to improve. 

I am married to a native virgin islander.  Actually, his great aunt was the firstborn US Virgin Islander after the purchase of the Virgin Islands.   He is one of 10 children and of them, he is the only one that still lives here.  We live in a shanty on family land that can't be improved upon because the land was never probated and the executor of the land passed a couple of months after Irma.  Our son goes to school at JESS and his class has 30 kids in one of those tiny modular classrooms and 1/2 of his core classes are being taught by someone who doesn't even have a college degree let alone a teaching certificate.  What I'm trying to say is we don't even have the basics.  So while I don't encourage new people to move here now, I still like to hear about the subjects and topics that affect those of us who still live here.  


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singlefin
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November 10, 2019 9:10 am  

You can’t have it both ways. You’ll never have a large number of economic opportunities on an island that was designed as a playground for the wealthy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t St. John still referred to as “The Beverly Hills of the Caribbean”? Two thirds of the island is a nature preserve and off limits to development. As Julie said above, “the government encourages more and more development and buisness” but anytime a surveyor shows up anywhere, a local homeowners association calls a lawyer to throw up questionable legal roadblocks. The fact of the matter is, “Locals” don’t want their little piece of paradise infringed upon. 

Nothing, wooden Shanty or otherwise, on St. John is worth less than half a million dollars. Probate could have been avoided with a Trust. Probate is a nightmare without such legal protections in place no matter where you live. Big families tend to have many conflicting interests in the distribution of grandpa’s patch of dirt. Especially if it’s located in a highly desirable location... like Beverly Hills. 


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fdr
 fdr
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November 10, 2019 10:51 am  
Posted by: @singlefin

fdr - When where housing prices in St. John not out of control? Good paying jobs and housing are usually hard to find in a nature preserve. 

My last time here as a tourist, in 1998, I was in my 20s and could have afforded to buy land or rent. By the time I moved here in 2008, the cost of living was so much higher. Even though my income was higher than it was ten years earlier, I could afford to rent but not to buy. Today I could not afford to rent or buy on St John and am lucky to have landlords who have extended very reasonable terms for a property they had planned to use as a short-term rental. If that went away tomorrow, I'd be living in my office or my car, like a few other people I know.

"designed as a playground for the wealthy" -- who has done the designing? There was a recent discussion on a FB page about who calls St John "the Beverly Hills of the Caribbean". Bottom line, the people of St John definitely don't call it that. The island is treated as a piggy bank for the government because most people in the STT/STJ district don't live here and we have inadequate representation with respect to development.

Julie, as usual you have a great deal of insight. It's a cycle of government and private interests that continues to rotate, and while a few people gain, overall most people are losing more than they receive from the deals made for "progress". I really feel for your family's situation with the probate; it's so unfair not only for you all but for all the future generations. I'm hoping the law introduced to expedite the probate process will help at least some people avoid that in the future.

This post was modified 1 month ago by fdr

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singlefin
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November 10, 2019 11:13 am  

“Who was the designer?”

Lawrence Rockefeller in 1952.

An earlier post mentioned Martha’s Vineyard. There’s a very real chance that island is a good example of what St. John will look like at some point in the future. However unfortunate it may be for some, sorry to say the end results are inevitable.


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STTsailor
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November 10, 2019 12:25 pm  

St John is a very exclusive place in USVI. It has significantly less crime then other islands and because 90% of the island is a national park the island is underpopulated. Personally I could not afford to buy on STJ and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I am not sure I would call it Beverly Hills of Caribbean as I have been to much nicer islands in Caribbean like Anguilla, St Barth’s, Saba, Mustique or even The Saints. I call USVI an American redneck paradise for people who don’t have passports or feel insecure outside of auspices of places waving American flag/speaking English. While St John may have been more affordable in the past and is less so now I can attest that any desirable city in the mainland is even less affordable that USVI. My 3000 sq foot St Thomas house with panoramic views of Atlantic BVI and STJ would have cost 5 to 8 million in NYC, LA or SFO. Real estate taxes are still very low here.

 

Also, please notice that the net worth and the number of super rich in US has exploded under Trump largely due to lower taxes and performance of the stock market. Investing 3-10 million in STJ real estate is really not prohibitive for that population segment. The maldistribution of wealth and power affects 99% of US population. 


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singlefin
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November 10, 2019 3:03 pm  

I’ve been to Beverly Hills. Not sure who made the comparison to St. John. The Hills wouldn’t be my first pick to live if I had millions in the bank. 

St. John would be high on the list though 😉


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Scubadoo
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November 10, 2019 4:08 pm  

You don’t need a trust to avoid probate in the USVI anymore as of 2019.  The legislature passed a bill that now alows Transfer on Death deeds in the VI making it very easy and cheap to avoid probate for real estate .  But you have to have the deed recorded before death.  Stories like stjohnjulies should be a warning for folks to get one of these deeds recorded if they know who they expect their land to go to .


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Gator's Mom
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November 10, 2019 5:00 pm  

@Scubadoo

That is great about VI having inheritance or transfer on death deeds as an option now.  It's a great strategy to avoid probate if you can identify all living heirs.

Pro Publica, the investigative news website, published a series of articles on inheritance in the African American community in Georgia. Much of the information found in these stories is relevant to ancestral VI families with complex multi-generational inheritance issues. 

https://www.propublica.org/article/what-can-heirs-property-owners-do-to-protect-their-land-loss


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Gator's Mom
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November 10, 2019 5:08 pm  
Posted by: @singlefin

I’ve been to Beverly Hills. Not sure who made the comparison to St. John. The Hills wouldn’t be my first pick to live if I had millions in the bank. 

St. John would be high on the list though 😉

If I had millions, I'd choose Mustique in St. Vincent and the Grenadines or St. Bart as my slice of Caribbean paradise. 


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East Ender
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November 10, 2019 6:07 pm  

Many Virgin Islanders do not make wills, let alone create trusts. There is a superstition against thinking about death. No advance directives/living wills, etc. A trust is the best thing to bequeath wealth and property to the next generation. And an advance directive helps with end-of-life decisions...

It was not too long ago that the eldest son inherited all and everyone else was SOL...


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stjohnjulie
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November 11, 2019 4:20 am  
Posted by: @singlefin

Nothing, wooden Shanty or otherwise, on St. John is worth less than half a million dollars. Probate could have been avoided with a Trust. Probate is a nightmare without such legal protections in place no matter where you live. Big families tend to have many conflicting interests in the distribution of grandpa’s patch of dirt. 

No doubt everything on St. John is expensive.  With only so much developable land and more and more desire for people to be here, it just continues to drive the prices up.  The funny thing is, the land I am on, and the land that would be considered my husband's inheritance, are basically worthless because they haven't been probated.  So they can't be developed (or sold).  I inquired with a local attorney about getting the land probated and he told me that if every one of the defendants agreed about what should be done with the land then it would be $40,000 plus to get it done.  The land was last deeded in his grandmother's name.  The land we are on is on that same deed in his great aunt's name.  The only thing we are doing to make sure the government doesn't snatch up this land is paying the taxes.  Something has to change.  This is a huge problem with the recovery from the storms as well.  You can't get a building permit without a deed.  I was hoping that some lawyers would step in and donate their time to help these families.  But I haven't seen that yet.  

This post was modified 1 month ago by stjohnjulie

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Gator's Mom
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November 11, 2019 11:27 am  

@stjohnjulie

Julie -

Please read these articles and related ones on heirs properties published earlier this year by ProPublica.

The USDA may be establishing a program to help heirs pay for gaining clear title to their ancestral land.  A lot of areas in the VI qualify for USDA programs for rural communities but you'll need to check on this.

https://www.propublica.org/article/federal-government-wants-to-hear-from-heirs-property-owners

https://www.propublica.org/article/elizabeth-warren-announces-plans-to-help-heirs-property-owners

There are things you can do to advance this without engaging an attorney - such as trying to locate all living heirs who may have a claim to your husband's family land and keeping accurate records of who is paying property related expenses.

I also would contact Lizzie Presser, the ProPublica reporter, and tell her your personal story about how the heirs property story is playing out in the VI after the hurricanes. It's compelling narrative and she might be interested.  ProPublica is an investigative journalism powerhouse - well funded and highly influential. 

This post was modified 1 month ago by Gator's Mom

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Alana33
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November 12, 2019 11:28 am  

stjohnjulie,

Possibly contact the Recorder of Deeds office and see what info they may have on your husband's family property.

They may also be able to point you in the right direction.

Many island families have found themselves in similar situations with no will or trust and lots of family members scattered, hither and yon, and even more offspring to complicate things.

I've always found the STT Recorders office to be extremely helpful.

Good luck!

This post was modified 1 month ago by Alana33

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