The late Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE has touched many lives as his work as a longtime servant of the people bears a good testimony of his public service, from public officer to public figure.
This is according to Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie who issued a statement today, November 12 following the passing of Hon. O’Neal. According to family members, Hon. O’Neal passed away quietly at his home in Road Town.
According to Hon. Fahie, the Territory will observe a National Period of mourning to commence immediately until official Funeral and Burial.
“In this regard, all flags on Government Buildings are to be lowered to Half Staff throughout this period of National Mourning,” Hon. Fahie declared.
We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE, Member Emeritus of the House of Assembly.
Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE was a great man who taught me much of what I know today as a leader. He has touched many lives as his work as a longtime servant of the people bears a good testimony of his public service, from public officer to public figure.
From the young age of 18, Mr. O’Neal commenced his career as a public officer, serving as a primary school teacher. A few years after, having felt the need to do more for his country, he decided to work hard and later he ascended to be the second Speaker of the Legislative Council in 1958. In 1975, Honourable O’Neal decided to join the political arena and became the elected representative for the 7th District. He then went on to become the District Representative for the 9th District and he represented this district until 2015 when he retired from active politics.
While he served in the House of Assembly – formerly the Legislative Council, Honourable O’Neal held the positions of Minister for Social Services, Minister for Natural Resources and Labour and Deputy Chief Minister.
In May of 1995, he became Chief Minister following the sudden passing of another Virgin Islands Stalwart, the Honourable H. Lavity Stoutt.
He was the second Chairman of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) and we were happy to honour his legacy at a Gala during our 47th Anniversary on November 17, 2018.
Honourable O’Neal was appointed the Territory’s first Premier when the Constitution was amended in 2007. He was the first member of the House of Assembly in recent Virgin Islands history to have been bestowed with the title of Member Emeritus.
Honourable O’Neal also willingly gave of himself in other public service areas including the Rotary Club of Tortola where he was a founding member, and also the BVI Red Cross, where he served at the highest level. He was also involved in sports including cricket.
He made several contributions to the Honourable House and the rest of the Virgin Islands by extension.
Photo Credit: GIS/ Ronnielle Frazer
Honourable O’Neal could be described as one of the last bastions of politics as we knew it in the Virgin Islands. He was a gentleman who commanded decorum and upheld the greatest respect for this House. He was indeed a teacher, and a pillar of exemplary work not only for us who were trained under his guidance and good advice, but for his other political peers in the Caribbean region and perhaps the world.
As a forthright beacon, Hon O’Neal was the type of person who preferred to hurt you with the truth, if it was necessary for the cause of the greater good – one of the secrets, I would say, to a long and fruitful career, and an equally long life.
It was just a few weeks ago that my Government passed a motion in the House during the Seventh Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly to rename the Central Administration Complex in his honour. We saw this being an important honour due to the significance of this building to us as Virgin Islanders. The Central Administration Complex, is not just a building housing government offices, it is a monument which ought to represent Virgin Island pride, a tangible proof of the beginning of a developing, progressive and prosperous society.
As we work towards revitalising such an iconic building which is part of the Virgin Islands modern history and houses our public service, let us remember his legacy always as such a significant building bears his name.
The Territory will observe a National Period of mourning to commence from 12th November, 2019, until Official Funeral and Burial. In this regard, all flags on Government Buildings are to be lowered to Half Staff throughout this period of National Mourning.
I extend condolences to his wife Former First Lady Mrs. Edris O’Neal, OBE and his children. I also extend condolences to his son-in-law Honourable Vincent Wheatley, Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration and 9th District Representative. Thank you all for sharing him with us.
The BVI loved him. The region admired him. The world knew him—Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE. We will miss him.
The Cabinet of the Virgin Islands has recently approved the purchase of 5.5 acres of prime real estate, which was built in the 1970s and is located within The Greater Baths National Park, Toad Hall Estate.
Toad Hall Estate was a highly sought-after luxury vacation villa that sustained damage in the 2017 Hurricanes. The estate will be rebuilt, offering guests an exclusive entrance to The Baths National Park, exclusive authentic Virgin Islands’ cultural and historical experiences, and will also serve as a platform for local artisans, entertainers, and craftsmen to showcase their craft.
The acquisition of Toad Hall Estate allows the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) to construct the NPTVI Headquarters which includes a state-of-the-art visitor interpretation and environmental education centre, that will have a gift shop and a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the outer islands.
Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie said, “The purchase of Toad Hall Estate is an investment that will see prosperous results in both the Environment and the Tourism product in the Virgin Islands. The Government of the Virgin Islands is working tirelessly to improve the quality of life of the people of the Virgin Islands as well as the tourism product. ”
Minister of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration, Honourable Vincent O. Wheatley said, “Toad Hall will also be a unique rental space where social and special events can be held in the visitor’s centre, the rooftop restaurant, and lawn or luxury villa. This project is estimated to create a minimum of 20 jobs in a variety of fields. It is a significant investment by the Government for the people and will enhance the visitor experience at the baths.”
Toad Hall will be the only villa rental, luxury or otherwise, within a National Park and Protected Area. This increases the value of the property economically and historically. The curated authentic cultural experiences at Toad Hall will enhance the quality of experiences offered to guests, thus increasing the quantity of spending and improving tourism numbers.
The Director of the National Parks Trust, Dr. Cassander Titley-O’Neal also expressed gratitude on behalf of the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands. Dr. Titley-O’Neal said “The National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands is delighted to add Toad Hall Estate to The Greater Baths Park family. This addition ensures that the ecological, historical and cultural aspects are maintained, and in time, will surely enhance the Territory’s overall tourism product.”
The National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands continues to preserve and manage designated natural and cultural areas in order to improve the quality of life in the British Virgin Islands.
On the day of the general election in February, former Premier Dr. Orlando Smith signed a development agreement giving preliminary permission to expand a planned community of ten villas into a major resort at Blunder Bay in North Sound, Virgin Gorda.
Expected to cost some $310 million over six years of construction, the proposed project could include up to 75 villas spread over a nearly 66-acre property outfitted with various amenities, according to the agreement.
Since 2013 developers have been leasing 20.75 acres of Crown land at $35,500 a year for the original 10-villa plan, but the new agreement states that government would lease them an additional 45 acres if they can secure a binding agreement with a branded hotel company within a year.
“In my mind as a British Virgin Islander, I’m interested in what’s best for the country,” said Ashburn Harrigan, managing director and shareholder of Blunder Bay Development Corporation Limited, explaining his decision to pursue the partnership. “I saw and thought a branded resort would be a great way to go.”
If the Virgin Islands company can secure the partnership, it would then be entitled to sub-lease undeveloped lots to clients who could commit to building a villa within three years, and it also would have the option of building villas before leasing them out to interested parties.
According to the development agreement, Blunder Bay’s leadership intends to partner with Six Senses, a Bangkok-based firm that manages 16 properties around the world, but neither Mr. Harrigan nor Six Senses would confirm whether a deal has been signed.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss what we have and haven’t done …. We have nondisclosureagreements in place and I cannot answer those questions,”Mr. Harrigan said when asked whether his company had signed a binding agreement with Six Senses.
Benjawan Sudhikam, director of public relations for Six Senses, was similarly tight-lipped.
“Six Senses is continuously in discussions with other parties about different projects world-wide,” she wrote in an email, adding, “We are only able to make information about these projects public at the appropriate time.”
Ron Brash, finance director of Blunder Bay, said Mr. Harrigan has been preparing to sign a “letter of intent” with a “world-class … eco-resort spa brand,” but he too declined to provide more information, citing “signed confidentiality agreements.”
In an interview before the Beacon obtained a copy of the development agreement, Mr. Harrigan maintained that he had partnered with such a company, though he was reluctant to disclose specifics of the agreement and would not name the firm.
The partnership, he said, was motivated primarily by the benefits it would bring to the territory’s economy.
To help the resort along, the development agreement contains various clauses designed to expedite its progress, including requiring the government to assign a project liaison and exempting “key” resort personnel from obtaining work permits.
The agreement also specifies that the developers should provide internship and continuous training opportunities to at least 20 Virgin Islanders in areas including hospitality service and management, and environmental technology advancement.
“If this can happen, it’s gonna be marvelous,” Mr. Brash said.
If realised, the resort would be a dramatic departure from its original iteration, which was still being advertised on the company’s website as of yesterday afternoon.
Previously, Mr. Harrigan had portrayed the original project as roughly 20 acres of land divvied up into ten plots, upon which individuals would custom design residences.
The website advertises a similar plan: “Blunder Bay, stretched along the tranquil blue North Sound on Virgin Gorda, has 10 plots of land for sale, each with a mesmerising view of sailing yachts, boats and pretty neighbouring islands,” it states.
Parts of the website, however, appear not to have been updated recently. “Blunder Bay is in its final phase of development and aims to finish construction of its infrastructure by September 2016,” states a section titled “development schedule.”
The developers told the Beacon that key components already have been completed, such as an 18-slip dock, electrical wiring, a reverse osmosis plant, and two buildings: a manager’s residence and a utility storage facility.
A planned private residence and a beach pavilion, however, remain outstanding.
Construction was slowed when Hurricane Irma damaged both of the completed buildings, which are still being modified, the developers said.
Change of plans
The decision to expand the project came in 2017, when Mr. Harrigan was marketing the development, he said. During this period, he recalled, developers, hotel operators, investors and others approached him with various proposals.
After weighing the options, he decided that partnering with a branded hotel company would bring the greatest economic boon for the Virgin Islands, he said.
“We had an original plan, and we changed the course to go into a bigger project that I thought was … more beneficial for the British Virgin Islands in terms of producing jobs,” Mr. Harrigan explained.
Dr. Smith, the former premier, agreed that a major branded resort would be a tremendous economic win for the territory.
“I realised that …we need to expand and improve our tourism product,” Dr. Smith told the Beacon, adding that he was encouraged by Six Senses’ worldwide prestige when considering the proposal.
“They have Six Senses all around the world, and they are very well regarded.”
Mr. Brash said the project would benefit the economy in many ways, bringing stamp duty, a ten percent hotel tax, payroll taxes and National Health Insurance contributions, among others.
Citing figures provided to Mr. Harrigan by “the brand” in discussions with him, Mr. Brash also said that for every villa, 2.5 jobs would be created.
Additionally, a percentage of the gross annual revenue will be contributed to a sustainability fund to help conserve the environment, Mr. Brash said.
Dr. Smith said that the government has signed several similar development agreements, as they offer developers and the government a measure of “comfortability” by establishing precise terms for the way forward.
“It enables a project … to be carried on more effectively and more efficiently,” Dr. Smith said.
The agreements, however, do not exempt developers from applying for the usual required permissions from the Planning Authority and other government agencies, and the Blunder Bay agreement states as much.
While reporting on this article, the Beacon requested from the Town and Country Planning Department any documents pertaining to the Blunder Bay development.
The agency produced documents associated with the original 20.75-acre proposal: development applications submitted in 2014, 2015 and 2016 — all of which were approved — as well as an environmental impact assessment.
The applications from 2014 and 2015 sought permission for the utility storage facility and manager’s residence, both of which have been completed, according to the developers.
The 2016 application sought permission for the beach pavilion, which has not been completed. The EIA, conducted in 2012, assessed the potential environmental impacts of the proposed 10-villa development.
“A comprehensive evaluation of the study area was carried out and the environmental character of the area was determined,” the document states.
The EIA is dated about seven years before Dr. Smith signed the new development agreement in February, and it takes into account only the ten parcels of land to be developed under the original plan.
However, the development agreement for the 66-acre proposal states that an EIA has been “reviewed and approved in accordance with the requirements of the relevant legislation” — without mentioning that the EIA covered only the original version of the project.
When Mr. Harrigan was asked how the EIA could have been “approved” despite investigating only a fraction of the new development’s proposed size, he said, “I paid someone to do an environmental impact [assessment].”
He added, “You’re asking me now how they did their work: I don’t know; I’m not an environmentalist.”
For the EIA, the developers hired Dr. Cassander Titley O’Neal, executive director of Environmental Systems, who referred questions about specifics of the study back to Mr. Harrigan.
Dr. Titley O’Neal is also listed on the Blunder Bay website as the environmental manager for the project, but Mr. Harrigan maintained that she was never on the company payroll and that she was paid only for executing the EIA.
Chief Planner Greg Adams said that no development application or EIA for the expanded version of the resort had been submitted to the TCPD, and he added that he could not explain how the development agreement could “approve” an EIA that examined a small portion of a proposed project.
“Our process cannot account for any discrepancy in what is submitted to the Planning Authority for consideration versus what may have been discussed with the ministry going forward with the development agreement,” he said.
Premier Andrew Fahie declined to comment for this article.
The EIA outlines various environmental impacts associated with the original development proposal, including “a direct loss of seagrass, associated flora and solitary coral head,” among others.
It also notes, however, that the developers intend to take measures to mitigate the environmental harms and heal the affected ecology, such as the “installation of piles for the main estate dock and private docks … and the intentional replanting of [red mangrove] near the existing dock.”
Mr. Brash added that the developers are considering installing solar panels on the property.
“Their aim is not to change the environment but to work with the environment,” Mr. Brash said.
John and Sonia Williams, who are listed on the Blunder Bay website as directors and shareholders of the project, declined to comment for this article, as did Brent Brydon, who is listed as development project manager.
Paola Flax at Mango Bay Resort provided the following report. She said, “After suffering catastrophic damages to the entire resort during Irma, I am excited to announce that Mango Bay has officially reopened its resort on November 1st, 2019”
Construction has been underway since February on a brand new Mango Bay Resort and the final touches have been made in time for the reopening of the resort on November 1st when they will welcome their first guests since Irma hit.
“We can not wait to welcome all of you to our new Mango Bay Resort. If you haven’t already booked your next vacation, we think it’s about time you do,” Paola added.
Mango Bay Resort offers one and two bedroom villa suites featuring air conditioning, fully equipped kitchens and maid service. In addition, the villa suites can be combined for large families or groups that require three, four or even five bedrooms. Choose from beachfront, ocean view or garden view units – all just a few steps from the beautiful blue ocean at Mahoe Bay.
Great to see another resort coming back to life in the BVI!
Mango Bay Resort: +1 284-340-9500 | email@example.com
Two years after Hurricane Irma decimated Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, Valley Trunk is making its come back with a December 2019 re-opening. And, the private rental villa is even better than before.
“All in all, it is true that every tragedy has a silver lining,” says Valley Trunk’s longtime General Manager Chris Tilling. “After the initial heartbreak, we were able to visualize a new and improved Valley Trunk which would be restored using the same quality and attention to detail as the original.”
Built in the 1980s by the Wildenstein family, which made its fortune in art and horse racing, Valley Trunk remained a private retreat for family and friends for decades. When the next generation assumed the helm, they decided to make the estate available for exclusive-use rentals in 2014.
The property retained its ’80s spirit over the years, so it was due for an update. After the storm hit, the family embraced the opportunity in the crisis and commenced rebuilding with an eye to bringing it into the 21st century.
The 10 suites across five standalone villas now have airy, open floor plans and a clean, neutral coastal aesthetic with an emphasis on natural materials, such as wood and stone. Contemporary bathrooms are appointed with travertine floors, glass tiles, new fixtures and bespoke vanities.
The estate’s original green roof tiles were reproduced in Japan, while the doors and woodwork were handcrafted in Kenya, where furniture was also sourced. Vanities, cupboards and closets were custom made in Italy, and the new state-of-the-art stormproof windows and sliders were imported from Germany.
Valley Trunk, named for the island’s indigenous Trunkback Turtles, is perched on a hilltop occupying 19 acres with panoramic ocean views, gardens, a swimming pool, tennis court, and a stunning white sand private beach neighboring the island’s Baths National Park.
Sadly, the storm destroyed the remarkable Indonesian wooden beach house that the family had transported from Bali. But work is underway to fully restore Bali House, which was reproduced in Bali to match its original blueprints and shipped to Virgin Gorda for reassembly.
In the main building, the cinema-style screening room has been renovated, as well as the bar area. And the property’s centerpiece infinity-edge swimming pool has also been updated with a chlorine-free filtration system and a seating area for enjoying the vivid Caribbean sunsets. Under the care of the estate’s longtime gardener, the property’s gardens have been carefully replanted and restored so they are as lush as ever.
“Structurally, Valley Trunk remains the same,” Tilling says. “It was important that the estate’s buildings retained their original footprints, preserving the layout and aesthetic created by its original founding owner nearly 40 years ago,”
With the return of Valley Trunk and Oil Nut Bay earlier this year, and the soon to re-open Rosewood Little Dix Bay and the Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda is finally ready to reclaim its status as one of the Caribbean’s top luxury destinations.
Valley Trunk requires a seven-night minimum stay with all-inclusive rates starting in low season from $5,000 per night for a minimum of four guests (additional guests are charged separately). In high season, rates are $12,000 per night for a minimum of eight guests (extra for additional guests), with special rates for Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Rates include exclusive use of the property, all meals and beverages including alcohol, water sports, tennis, mountain bikes, transfers to and from Virgin Gorda airport, a visit to Virgin Gorda’s Baths National Park, laundry service and Wi-Fi.
There’s a moment on this trip when you take it all in, when you look around at the glory of this place and stop to savor it.
We have been fortunate enough to have made the journey around the British Virgin Islands on a number of occasions, a privileged pilgrimage through one of the most resoundingly beautiful places in the Caribbean.
But each time the BVI’s immense beauty reminds you of why so many make this journey, of why it remains a bucket-list box to tick for Caribbean aficionados.
And yet each time it feels new; each time it hits you, again for the first time.
On this voyage it wasn’t until the final day on the water, when we moored at The Indians and spent several hours in the golden glow of the late afternoon in the British Virgin Islands.
By a mix of fate and the quiet of early October in the Caribbean, there was no other boat for what seemed like miles, a rare thing at one of the greatest snorkeling spots in the West Indies.
And the light on the jagged rocks, the varying hues of blue and the power of the setting sun did a number, turning a tiny corner of 50-some-odd islands and cays into a shrine.
Because when you’re on a power catamaran in these waters, in this case the new MarineMax Vacations 443, the combination of pure exhilaration, beauty and adventure means you don’t often pause.
There’s always another reef, another island, another stop for the dinghy.
But here at The Indians, we could stop and reflect, not just on how beautiful a destination this continued to be, but on how far the BVI had come in a short time since the storms of 2017.
The BVI has overcome quite a lot in two years, a testament to its endlessly inspiring people. And while certain things have changed, what hasn’t is the wonder, the marvel.
The BVI is a destination for adventurers, for those who’ve fallen in love with the feeling of discovering a place for themselves for the first time — or the 100th.
Because for every golden hour at The Indians, there are a thousand moments just like it.
And that was true on this journey, from a sandy afternoon at Norman Island to a festive night at CocoMaya to a circuit of the North Sound.
And that brings us to the boat itself.
There are many ways to do a charter vacation in the BVI: bareboat or crewed, monohull or cat, sail or power.
But one of the newest additions to the BVI’s charter fleet is a rather special thing indeed.
The new 443 by Aquila is a beautiful, crisply designed boat that’s equally adept at leisure and adventure, with a host of wonderful amenities, from the 360-degree galley and living area to a particularly welcome feature: direct access from the flybridge to the bow.
But what’s most staggering about the new 443 isn’t just its remarkable fit and finish — it’s the sheer speed.
The thing just flies, and that means that you can really island hop to your heart’s content, packing in as much of this glorious archipelago as you wish and putting a premium on the time you spend at each stop — not on the time you spend getting there.
And it means more late afternoons moments on the sea in the British Virgin Islands.
By 2030, millennials will hold five times as much wealth as they have today, and are expected to inherit over $68 trillion from their predecessors in the Great Transfer of Wealth. What will they do with this wealth? This question is the catalyst for “A Look at Wealth 2019: Millennial Millionaires,” a supplement to The Report by the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program and WealthEngine.
In order to help luxury real estate professionals better understand this influential group of current and future homebuyers, the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program partnered with WealthEngine to analyze key aspects of the millennial millionaire lifestyle, including wealth creation, philanthropy, property investments, spending trends and more.
Bode Aviation has announced the launch of a new private air charter service, called Fly Bode Caribbean Air Charter. Operating from their base in San Juan, Puerto Rico, flights will commence on November 1, 2019 to the British Virgin Islands (Tortola and Anegada) and other destinations in the Caribbean. Providing flights since 1994, Bode Aviation is an established Southwest based aviation company and they are really excited to be bringing King Air flying comfort to the islands.
Fly Bode Caribbean offers personalized leisure, vacation and business air charter services for the ultimate flying comfort and convenience in the Carribean. They specialize in providing service from San Juan, PR and St Thomas, to Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, as well as many other Caribbean islands. Capable of carrying up to 6 passengers, their twin-turbine engine Beechcraft King Air C90XP is pressurized and air-conditioned.
Fly Bode Caribbean Air Charter: +1 787-346-0632 | firstname.lastname@example.org
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” overlay_color=”” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” center_content=”no” last=”no” min_height=”” hover_type=”none” link=””][fusion_text]Big shout out to Morgana Tilling and Loverly Sheridan for doing an absolutely fantastic job with the anti-bullying campaign. Thank you for allowing us to be involved. What you are doing is truly inspirational. We would be delighted to help with sponsorship again when you roll this out in Tortola.
Mission accomplished! We’ve now successfully placed Buddy Benches and launched the Buddy Ambassadors Program at all six schools on Virgin Gorda! (The island is only eight mile long)
Thanks to the commitment of the Ministry of Education, citizens and sponsors, we will be placing benches and launching the program at ALL schools in the BVI! Talk about Buddy Power!
One thing that is very apparent on Virgin Gorda, is that citizens work as a collective towards a common goal, for the good of all concerned, especially children. ❤️ It has been amazing to watch, and an all around wonderful experience.
The Bregado Flax Educational Centre and The Little Rainbow School brought the ‘Buddy Magic’ yesterday, and it was a great way to wrap up the campaign.
I’ve fallen in love this little island, and I would like to thank everyone for their gracious welcome, and for helping me to create a Buddy Culture in schools. Thank you to the Ministry of Education and Culture, for not only endorsing the program, but their commitment in ensuring that the program spread throughout the BVI. A special thank you to our bench and program sponsors; Coldwell Bankers Real Restate and Smiths Gore, BVI.
Mrs. Morgana Tilling, thank you for your commitment, dedication, hard work, and all that you’ve done in not only bringing the program to Virgin Gorda, and now in extension the entire BVI, but ensuring that it was successful, and that the children have a true “Buddy” experience. You rock! Thank you my VG Buddies! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️