Despite opposition from environmentalists in the British Virgin Islands, the BVI government approved construction of and gave the go-ahead to the 650-acre Beef Island Golf & Country Club Resort on Beef Island, which is separated from the main island of Tortola by a short bridge.

No groundbreaking date has been announced as of yet.

Right now, Beef Island's main claim to fame is its international airport, which links the BVI with airports in San Juan, St. Thomas and several smaller Caribbean islands.

 

The development of the upscale resort and golf course has been stalled for some time while environmentalists and government authorities squared off against each other.

Chief Minister Orlando Smith championed the $80 million project, which will cover most of Beef Island (the airport will remain intact) and will include an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

While Smith acknowledged the importance of protecting the environment, he said that "we must also think about creating jobs, growing our economy and securing our tourism industry for the future."

Opponents of the project included biologists, environmentalists and critics who contended that the project would create only low-wage jobs and would distort the local housing market.

The biologists also said that the pollution and habitat destruction caused by the resort would damage important breeding grounds on an island noted for its reefs and mangrove forests.

However, Smith contended that "strong environmental protections" would be in place before the developer, Applied Properties, breaks ground.

The final agreement included a concession from the developer to scale back by 10% the number of planned hotel rooms and rental villas and to give preference to local contractors.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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