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Concerns over Govt’s Building in New York Laid to Rest

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The Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation wishes to assure the St. Lucian public that any concerns regarding the status of the official residence of the Ambassador to the United Nations in New York should be laid to rest. Indeed, the matter of outstanding property tax payments to the Town of Harrison in New York has already been settled, and any and all proceedings by that jurisdiction have been discontinued.

When the Government of St. Lucia purchased the property in 2000, it was assumed, that having received State Department approval for the transaction, tax exemption status would have been automatic. On that basis, it was considered (wrongly as it turned out) that statements of property tax assessments issued by the town authorities were administrative errors. Having received those statements repeatedly for two to three years, the Mission of St Lucia became concerned and sought clarification from the State Department and the town authorities, only to be advised that, notwithstanding State Department approval for the transaction, a separate application for tax exemption from property taxes from tie local jurisdiction (the Town of Harrison) bad to be made. This application was immediately filed, and formal tax exemption status was granted.

With this process concluded, the Mission of St. Lucia embarked upon a series of negotiations with the town authorities with a view to having them rescind the taxes that had so far been levied. These negotiations, though time consuming, were unsuccessful. The Mission engaged the authorities in a further series of negotiations, this time to have the tax exemption status backdated but that effort also did not bear fruit.

At the end of this process of negotiations, the Mission considered two options open to it for the settlement of the outstanding payments. The first option was to effect direct payment, while the second was to effect payment from the proceeds of the sale of the property.

By then, a decision had been taken by the Government of St. Lucia to repair the building and offer it for sale. As it happened, before the sale of the property could take place, a listing of properties in default on tax payments (including that owned by the Government of St. Lucia) was issued. As a result, the Government of St. Lucia has had to resort to the first payment optic n, and has effected payment of the amounts due to the Town of Harrison.

As indicated earlier, the property in question was purchased in 2000 for US$1.4. Since that time, the value of the property has increased considerably, although the harsh weather has taken a toll on the building. In 2003, the Government of St. Lucia decided (on the basis of professional advice) that repairs should be undertaken on the building, following which the property should be placed on the market. The intention is to seek a replacement property for which the maintenance and other costs would be lower than that which obtained for the current property. The renovations are currently being concluded, and the Government of St. Lucia has placed the property on the market with an initial asking price of US$3.5M. The final sale price will of course be determined by market conditions.

My Ministry regrets the misunderstanding surrounding this matter, and any disquiet it might have inadvertently caused to the citizens of St Lucia, both at home and abroad.

Signed: Julian R. Hunte


Sen. the Hon. Julian R. Hunte
Minister of External Affairs, International Trade & Civil Aviation.
New York



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