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DPNR Says It Will Inspect ‘Abandoned and Uninhabitable Structures’ To Determine Which Need To Be Razed … Will They Visit Time’s Square, St. Croix?

CHRISTIANSTED — Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Commissioner Dawn Henry today advised the community that pursuant to Title 29 V.I.C § 297 (2017), DPNR is responsible for determining whether a building or other structure is dangerous or unsafe requiring it to be made safe and secure or vacated and closed or taken down.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused extensive damage to structures throughout the Virgin Islands.

In an effort to ensure the safety of such structures, DPNR will conduct inspections throughout the territory.

Phase one of the inspection program will include homes that are abandoned and visibly uninhabitable.  Additionally, any owner of a building or structure who considers their property to be in a dangerous or unsafe condition, may contact DPNR to request an inspection.    The inspection will determine whether the structure can be made safe or closed or taken down.

Please be guided by the following paragraphs in section 297:

(f) Any building or other structure or part thereof deemed by the Commissioner to be in a dangerous or unsafe condition from any cause whatsoever, including partial destruction by fire or natural disaster, shall be made safe and secure or shall be vacated and closed or shall be taken down by the owner or his agent as the Commissioner may direct on service of a written notice by the Commissioner as set forth in such notice and within the period named therein.  Such order shall not be arbitrary and shall state the specific danger involved.  If considered necessary in order to protect life and property, the Commissioner may require that any building be vacated at once and temporarily close the sidewalks and streets adjacent thereto.

(g) Whoever, having been ordered by the Commissioner or, upon the Commissioner’s instructions, by a police officer, under the authority of this title, to vacate a building, refuses to do so, shall be fined not more than $200 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

(h) Paragraphs (f) and (g) of this section shall not be construed as relieving the owner of the property referred to in such paragraphs, or his agent, from liability because of accident or loss occurring after service by the Commissioner of the notice referred to in paragraph (f).

(i) If the owner of a building or other structure shall fail to comply within the stated time with a written notice issued by the Commissioner pursuant to subsection (f) directing that the building or structure shall be taken down, the Commissioner may cause the building or other structure to be demolished and removed by the Government of the Virgin Islands.  In such event, the Commissioner shall by certified mail, return receipt requested, demand that the owner pay within sixty days the reasonable costs of demolition and removal.  If the costs assessed by the Commissioner are not paid within the sixty-day period, the amount due shall be a lien in favor of the Government of the Virgin Islands  upon the real property on which the building or other structure was located, and the amount due may be collected by seizure and sale of the property.

(j) The Commissioner shall maintain accurate records of inspections made, of notices issued, and of actions taken by builders and owners pursuant to notices resulting from inspections.  A separate record shall be maintained of all demolitions classified by former use and occupancy.

Also, be reminded to check with the Virgin Islands Fire Service for any additional requirements.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact DPNR-Division of Building Permits in St. Thomas/St. John at (340) 774-3320 or St. Croix at (340) 773-1082.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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