Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. expressed his grave disappointment with a vote by the Virgin Islands Historic Preservation Committee to remove the “I Love St. Thomas” sign at Vendors’ Plaza in Charlotte Amalie in a press release Sunday.
“The vote and the subsequent comments made Thursday by some members of the Virgin Islands Historic Preservation Committee are extremely disappointing and are unfortunately indicative of how individuals continue to use this committee as a vehicle to hinder efforts and initiatives to revitalize our territory’s towns,” Bryan said in his statement.
Lively debate during the Historic Preservation Committee ended with a 3-2 vote to evict the I-heart-STT display in Vendors’ Plaza — with participants calling the installation “cheap,” “cheesy,” and a “gimmick.”
Vincent Richards, deputy commissioner at the Department of Property and Procurement, asked the committee to retroactively approve the tourist attraction that was unveiled in Charlotte Amalie’s Vendors’ Plaza on Aug. 13.
Similar aluminum installations have sprouted at other cruise ports, spelling out CUBA, BARBADOS, #stkitts, and #NEVISNICE, and, at Yacht Haven Grande, USVI, Richards said.
However, the problem with the Vendors’ Plaza sculpture was that almost every structure in the Charlotte Amalie historic district needs committee approval ensuring shape, size, and color standards are met. Richards had been bumped off a crowded Aug. 8 meeting agenda, the commission acknowledged, but that was moot as, by then, metal fabrication was complete, the structure was on island, and plans were set to put it in the historic district, he acknowledged.
“The Bryan-Roach Administration continues to push investments and champion initiatives aimed at boosting commerce, affordable housing and tourism to our historic towns. And it is disheartening to see a small handful of individuals continue to stand in the way of that progress by using their personal opinions as a cudgel to beat down the improvement efforts supported by the masses of Virgin Islands residents who want to see improvements made in our towns and historic districts,” Bryan said Sunday.
“Our administration values the importance of preserving our cultural and historic landmarks and support the entities who work to ensure that preservation. However, the guide of that preservation should rest with reasonable application of the committee’s mandates and not the whims of individuals’ personal opinions.”