Local Government and Guana Cay

January 14, 2009 | Local Government

Abaco Study Discusses Sustainable Planning


Larry Smith of BahamasPundit wrote another interesting article on development and Abaco. Here I quote three paragraphs from the article. A study by Andrews University suggests that conventional resort developments are a bad model for Abaco; exactly what The Great Guana Cay Blog has been saying since 2005:

"Conventional resort development typically features large hotels, a closed environment, golf courses, and a utility infrastructure that demands high water use and distant power transmission," the proposal says. "This model typically relies on a cheap labor force, high numbers of visitors, and intense access to amenities such as beaches, marinas and nearby transportation (airports).

"When systems fail over time, projects can become difficult to maintain because the Bahamas does not provide a sophisticated maintenance industry to sustain such a scale of development. This can mean further reliance on imported labor or the gradual transformation of the project into an obsolete and unmanageable relic. (Such) projects are sometimes abandoned with devastating affects on the local job market and economy (eg: the Four Seasons Resort on Exuma) and irrevocable harm to natural ecosystems."

The Andrews proposal seeks to define which communities should be built in what sectors of the island based on the best Bahamian settlement traditions, improved for the 21st century. Special requirements such as green corridors for wildlife are also stipulated, while conventional resort development is discouraged.

Read the full article by Larry Smith.

February 25, 2008 | Local Government

Duncombe Critical of Inland Marinas, Golf Development

From ReEarth. You can read more about Albany at the ReEarth website section on this development.

Environmental activist Sam Duncombe is criticizing the proposed digging of a deep channel through one of the longest stretches of continuous beach in New Providence. The developers of the Albany project are proposing to do the work in order to create a canal.

But Duncombe wants lawmakers to enact legislation that would prevent the cutting of Bahamian beaches and the creation inland marinas. She also wants Bahamians to pressure the government to put its feet down on foreign
investors whose developments cause major erosion and destruction of Bahamian beaches.

During a press conference on Adelaide Beach Tuesday, Duncombe pointed out markers on the southwestern coastline that developers plan to use as guidelines for where the marina slip would begin. She also took
reporters on a ten-minute walk outlining the amount of beach area that Bahamians would have access to once the Albany project is completed.

"This is Clifton all over again," she said. "This is history repeating itself. This is the FNM not learning its lesson. This is another fight for our land. The fact is, Bahamians will not have access to the entire (Adelaide) coastline, and that's what the issue continues to be. We want Bahamians to understand what they are losing on a daily basis. The beach is the one place where people who don't have a lot of money can enjoy the real wealth of the country."

Duncombe said Bahamians should not tolerate any further restriction in beach access. "We need to demand today that developers can no longer create canals through the beach. There are some things that should never been allowed to happen in this country. It's not benefiting us monetarily, so why are we taking it on?" she asked. She said successive governments have been too short-sighted in seeing the negative impact that breaching beaches would have in the future. "At some point, the government is going to have to acknowledge the mistakes that were made by building inland marinas, how it destroys the beach and how it creates social unrest. We talk about the social problems like crime. We live on a small island that is constantly being hemmed in at the coast so that we as citizens cannot have access. Our coastline is going to be taken away for a few very rich people," she said.

"We need to stop acquiescing to every demand that these developers have. Every time a developer doesn't get his way, he acts like a spoiled brat. He tells the government, 'Well if I can't get this or that, then I can't go through with the project,' well, like my father always said, 'you won't be missed.' I need Bahamians to understand what we are losing. We not only need to wake-up and smell the coffee; we need to drink it as well."

When completed, the $1.4 billion, 570-acre Albany development, will include 300 single-family type homes, cottages and apartments - priced between $2 and $20 million; an Ernie Els-designed championship golf course and a 100-room condominium complex.

The luxury development is expected to create over 1,000 jobs and attract a new class of residents to the southwestern area of New Providence. The project's Heads of Agreement was signed by the previous administration in November 2006. Development is taking place in the southwestern area of New Providence, around the secluded Albany House estate.

Since the Progressive Liberal Party signed the Heads of Agreement, the Albany project has been met with a mixture of support and criticism. Some Bahamians have taken issue with the proposed redirection of traffic in the area and limited access to Adelaide Beach; while others welcomed the development and the potential benefits it could bring to the community and local economy. At a town meeting to discuss the development last year, a group of Adelaide Village residents and business owners said the project would have a positive impact on the village. The Bahamas Environment, Science & Technology (BEST) Commission website contains a 124-page Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Albany project, outlining the impact it will have on the environment and marine life. Duncombe is encouraging Bahamians to become familiar with the document.

"People need to recognize the power we have as individuals and collectively when we speak and what that power means to politicians," she said. "The Clifton Cay development was another example of how incredible and how powerful people can be, because during the first and only meeting the government had about Clifton, over 500 people showed up at Lyford Cay town hall and everybody said 'no', so Clifton never happened," she said.

"We fought that until the then FNM government was thrown out of power. I have to believe they were thrown out of office because they kept saying to us that they were going to just go ahead and do it. The more politicians hear from us, the more we shape our society to how we want it to be, instead of how they think we want it to be."

In addition to the limited access to Adelaide Beach, the environmentalist said she also had a problem with the golf course being planned.

"Golf courses typically create a lot of pollution because of the amount of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that are used on the ground to keep it green and lush," she explained. "The reality is, if you have a heavy rain that overflow has to go somewhere. It will go into the ground water and later into the marine environment and that creates problems. Marinas create pollution because you've got 50 boats in one area, they are emptying their bilges and oil is leaking. If you have gas pumps, you're going to have leaks."

She continued, "I encourage people to come out to Adelaide beach and look for these markers and tell me if that's enough beach for you. I'm an Adelaide resident and I refuse to have the largest investment of my life eroded from under my feet simply because rich people don't have enough money yet."

According to Duncombe, once developers build the canal, they will have to place heavy machinery on the beach to dredge the sand in order to renourish the beach.

"What we have to know is that when you cut through a beach it's going to erode over time," she said.

"I've been coming out here for 20 years and I can tell you without a doubt, every summer there are thousands of people coming out here enjoying the beauty and serenity of the beach. Do we want to give that
up for a few hundred wealthy people?"

11.22.07 | Local Government

San Salvador Locals and Development

An update by Neil Hartnell on the San Salvador development issue. San Salvador's Pigeon Creek area is considered its most ecologically important. The local environmental group has put forth a proposal to turn that area into a national park, but those plans are being ignored, and investors are preparing to develop part of it.

11.21.07 | Local Government

Tribune Article on Hope Town District Council

Neil Hartnell covers the Hope Town District Council updates on permits to Bakers Bay Club.

06.27.07 | Local Government

Don't Forget what happened in Hopetown

Bahamians should have a record of the history of the earliest incidents surrounding the Bakers Bay controversy - these documents are critical in explaining the abuse of power and the threats to the young Republic.

On May 19, 2005, the central Bahamian government overstepped their authority and granted permits to Bakers Bay Club, even though these were permits to be issued, or not issued, by local government. Local government for Great Guana Cay is called the Hopetown District Council.

It is my understanding that all but one or two members of the District Council were not prepared to grant permits to Bakers Bay Club - in fact, local government was opposed to the development.

One of the reasons that the central government of the Bahamas that was in power and granted so many illegal favors to the Bakers Bay Club lost so badly in the recent elections this May is precisely because of this misuse of power. These letters explain why the District Council members decided to quit in protest of this breach of power:

05.08.07 | whereabouts

Guana Cay Citizens at United Nations Today

Fred Smith listens as Troy Albury speaks Fred Smith, attorney for Save Guana Cay Reef, and Troy Albury,
President of Save Guana Cay Reef, speak at the United Nations

Today is a historic day for the fight against the Discovery Land Company's massive megadevelopment on Great Guana Cay. The citizens of Guana Cay, their attorney and a group of scientists will be representing the push for sustainability in the Bahamas today. I will be reporting in with updates all day. Here is an article from The Nassau Guardian:

Click to visit Nassau Guardian Article

Guana Cay fight goes international Smith to speak at United Nations
By ANGELO ARMBRISTER

Freeport News Reporter


The fight to save Guana Cay is now gaining international exposure as Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) President Fred Smith and other "Save Guana Cay" representatives are set to address the United Nations Commission on sustainable development.

Smith will be accompanied by Thomas Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, and Troy Albury of the Save Guana Cay Reef Association, who also will make presentations at the summit, which will be broadcast live over the Internet at 1 p.m. today.

In an interview with the Freeport news before he left, Smith could hardly contain his excitement.

"I'm very proud to be representing The Bahamas and speaking on behalf of Save Guana Cay Reef Association and the Mangrove Action Project out of Bimini," he said. "We have been given a very rare and unique opportunity to speak before the United Nations Commission on sustainable development."

Smith explained that Goreau, who has been very active internationally in reef protection, arranged for the group to appear before the United Nations.

"We are going to speak about environmental protection, marsh land and mangrove protection and developments in so far as their impact on coastal zones," he said.

Noting that The Bahamas is an archipelago of 700 low-lying islands and cays, Smith said that climate change and global warming are things that Bahamians should be very much concerned about.

"In Grand Bahama we're only a couple of feet above the sea level so any little glacier that melts, we might be under water," he said. "So my speech is going to be focused on what laws exist in The Bahamas for environmental protection, the policies of the Bahamian government and the profile of development in The Bahamas."

The Human Rights activists said that his address will focus primarily on Save Guana Cay and how it mirrors what is happening generally in The Bahamas as it relates to foreign real estate developers, "who come here and are mainly interested in making a quick dollar and leaving.

"The reason these developers are coming here is because they keep finding these beautiful, untouched, pristine, virgin coastlines, coastal zones, so we want to keep them that way, because they don't have them in South Florida in the U.S. anymore," he said. "Bimini and Guana Cay have been very hard hit by this, and we are hoping to alert the international environmental community to the devastation and environmental rape that has gone on in The Bahamas, particularly under the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) administration over the last five years."

Smith noted that former Pime Minister Perry Christie has declared April as coastal awareness month, but he has failed to appreciate the absolute and fundamental importance of mangroves.

"They provide fishery nurseries, they are the eco-system between the salt water and our land and they are the ones that act as a sponge and a filter for the growth of land in The Bahamas," Smith said. "The wetlands and mangroves creep and grow and actually build land."

If it were not for mangroves in The Bahamas, Smith said there would not probably ber very much Bahamas.

"They are the land growers of The Bahamas and at the same time provide the protection and the fishery resources for conch and lobster and shrimp and all kinds of small fish and in particular the lemon shark in Bimini," Smith said.

He noted that those same mangrove areas are sold to foreign developments as crown land that appears to be worthless.

The mangroves, he said, are given away to developer's and are dredged for mega yacht marinas, exclusive golf courses, exclusive second homes, small resort hotels and gated communities.

Smith said that he wants the new Free National Move-ment (FNM) government to be aware that, "we are going to be watching them every step of the way.

"We are hoping that this is the first international alarm raised at the beginning of the FNM, term so that they make good on their promises to protect the environment, promote respect of the environment," he said, adding that he is very keen on having Environmental Protection Act passed as soon as possible.

Smith invites any persons that maybe interested in environmental protection in The Bahamas to log on the United Nations website to hear his address live at 1 p.m. today.

05.08.07 | Local Government

Outline of United Nations Presentation

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The following is Attorney Fred Smith's outline to the United Nations speech given today in New York. I encourage you to read the entire outline, which is linked at the bottom of this post.

Sunny Day at the United Nations

Tuesday, May 8 at the United Nations: sunny Bahamian weather in New York City.

Mangroves are critical ecosystems for shore protection and fisheries. They are essential to a healthy coastal environment; yet they are being destroyed worldwide at an accelerating pace. They represent an international environmental resource that is little understood or appreciated.

In The Bahamas, vast areas of mangroves are being destroyed by foreign development speculators to create all-inclusive tourist resorts and exclusive real estate, golf and marina developments. In Bimini and in Guana Cay the devastation has been catastrophic and continues.

United Nations Speech on Coral Preservation

Delegates listen to a speech given by the group affiliated with Guana Cay and Bimini, on the relationship between mangroves and coral.

The Government of The Bahamas, in particular the former recent PLP administration of Prime Minister Perry Christie, which was last week voted out in general elections after five years in power, has encouraged and promoted this at the altar of “Development” at all costs! Despite paying lip service to “Environmental Protection”, there is no environmental protection act.

This presentation is part of a group presentation on behalf of the Save Guana Cay Reef Association, an NGO from the Abacos in The Bahamas in conjunction with the Mangrove Action Project, an NGO from Bimini on the legal and policy challenges faced in protecting mangroves, and by extension the environment in The Bahamas. This paper addresses issues relating to environmental protection, tourism, land and marina developments and land use in The Bahamas.

These are issues which present challenging social, economic, and political considerations, not only for The Bahamas, but also for neighboring Caribbean nations and coastal communities worldwide, especially those that are being “discovered” by developers, precisely because they are beautiful, pristine and secluded environments, away from the hustle and bustle of large towns and cities and therefore ripe for glossy development plans and marketing to affluent second home buyers, golfers and mega yacht owners looking for offshore berths.

Fred Smith

Fred Smith at the United Nations

Leaders in coastal communities are challenged to become educated, debate and develop rational approaches to these challenges. Although there are many similarities in the impact on the environments of coastal communities, their cultures and rights are often affected in unique local ways.

This paper will focus on The Bahamas, and in particular, Great Guana Cay, a small island in the northern Bahamas Island chain known as The Abacos. Although localized, the story of Guana Cay represents a microcosm of what is happening throughout The Bahamas, and elsewhere in coastal communities. It is a story that is still unfolding politically and in the courts...

You can read the complete outline of the United Nations speech today. Click here.

February 21, 2007 | Local Government

Guana Cay Citizens Demand Rights, Vow to Fight On

Today's press release from the citizens of Guana Cay:

February 21, 2007

Guana Cay Residents continue to fight for right to be heard!

Claim that as citizens in their own home they have a right to be consulted!!

Bahamian citizens continue to fight for their rights as Bakers Bay and Government continue to mash them up!!!!

Save Guana Cay Opposes Applications by Bakers Bay to Hope Town District Council for 6 permit applications for projects each ranging from $600,000 to $1.6M for buildings at Great Guana Cay

Save Guana Cay Association continues to wage war on the Bakers Bay developers. They have discovered that the Developers have applied to build millions of dollars worth of buildings on Guana Cay.

Counsel to the Association, Fred Smith, has written today to the Hope Town District Council asking them to give the people of Guana Cay their right to be heard.

The text of the letter is set out below.

“We act on behalf of Save Guana Cay Reef Association Limited, as well as Mr. Anthony Roberts, Mr. Aubrey Clarke, Mr. Stephen Jenkins, Troy and Maria Albury, various other residents and landowners and citizens of Great Guana Cay

As you are aware, the Association and Mr. Aubrey Clarke are currently plaintiffs in litigation against the Bakers Bay/Passerine Group of Companies proposing to develop the northwestern portion of Great Guana Cay. The Prime Minister and various other government agencies are also defendants.

Our clients have challenged the legalities of the Heads of Agreement. More particularly, our clients have also vigorously complained that throughout this process they have not been provided with an opportunity for proper consultation and participation as stakeholders in the decision-making process of any central and/or local government person or agency having responsibility for consideration of applications.

Central to our clients’ complaints is the fact that our clients consider that it is the local government’s authority, specifically the district council, which has the duty and responsibility under the Local Government Act to consider the many different applications which will need to be made under the Local Government Act. Apparently, many applications have somehow been made directly to central government agencies in Nassau thus bypassing the local district council.

In addition, apparently in between the recent elections of new members to the district council, the administrator to the Council apparently issued certain permits.

Despite our many requests to central government, to the Attorney General and to the administrator, no one has seen fit to provide the citizens of Great Guana Cay with copies of either the applications or the permits issued.

The reason for this is that our clients were not given an opportunity to be heard on any such applications and the persons to whom we have written are anxious and fearful that if we are provided with copies of the applications and/or the permits, we would then seek to challenge them in court.

We are able to confirm that this is indeed the case. Once our clients do find out what permits have been issued, they will take appropriate action to seek to quash those decisions.

The end

Locals have been denied rights as the developer and the Central Government Plotted to make foreigners rich at the expense of the community.

We should also refer you to the several letters written by the previous Chief Councillor, Mr. Walter Sweeting complaining that the district council has been bypassed in the consideration of applications and the issuance of permits. Again, this is a matter which we intend to continue to pursue as soon as we discover the relevant information.

We therefore take this opportunity to ask you to please provide us with copies of any applications and/or permits that have previously been made of which your council or the administrator is aware, either to the central government and its agencies and/or to the district council and/or such as may have been issued by the administrator to the Council.

We have previously requested this of Mr. Wayne Hall who was your Chief Councillor since Mr. Sweeting demitted office.

It is therefore with considerable appreciation that our clients have now been made aware by the posting of a Notice indicating that six permit applications have been posted on February 17, 2007on the post office board in Hope Town (and I might add not at Great Guana Cay), indicating that there are a number of projects ranging from $600,000 to $1.6M which applications are due to be heard this Thursday, February 22, 2007.

As a general point, our clients are opposed to the scale, scope and extent of the proposed development.

As you are aware, our clients’ complained of the extensive environmental, social, cultural damage as well as the destruction of their traditional way of life.

Local government is all about local rights and taking into account the views and allowing those who are most closely affected by the proposed developments, to be consulted and to have their views properly considered. The district council is statutorily supposed to be representative of the citizens, residents and landowners of the district.

We are aware however that your council has some qualification and appointment challenges. We understand that many of you were actually appointed by the central government and not elected to office. Our clients reserve their rights to challenge this process as being illegal and intend to do so in due course.

Our clients would like to have an opportunity to make representations with regard to those proposed applications.

In that regard, our clients would like to have copies of the documents submitted by the applicants, so that they, and their advisors, can consider the same and be properly advised with regard to matters they might wish to raise which may be of concern regarding the applications.

Our clients have only just been made aware that these applications are before the council and not having had the benefit of any details with respect thereto, and given the fact that the applications will be considered so soon, our clients will not be in a position to be properly informed so as to be able to make sensible, rational and constructive comments.

We also understand that your council has been provided with copies of the BEST Commission reports and the current Environmental Impact studies. These have been repeatedly promised to our clients but, again, despite the fact that our clients are the ones most affected, they have not received copies thereof.

May we also ask that, in the spirit of transparency, accountability and in the interest of natural justice, and having regard to our clients’ rights to be heard, that we be provided with copies so that we can take they into account when making representations. Our clients are prepared to pay the cost of any copies, and are prepared to collect them at your convenience.

In the meantime, we ask that you adjourn the consideration of these applications until such time as our clients have been provided with the information sought.

Accordingly, may we please have confirmation that you will provide the information sought and adjourn the hearing of the applications.

We must put you on notice that if our clients are not treated fairly and if the applications are considered and/or approved without our clients being given the proper opportunity to make representations for your consideration, our clients will bring proceedings to enforce their rights in due course.

Our clients do not wish to litigate against their neighbours but must emphasise that the central government and the developers appear to be using our clients’ neighbours and pitting them against each other.

Yours faithfully

CALLENDERS & CO.
Frederick R. M. Smith

June 16, 2006 | Local Government

The Mayor of Great Guana Cay

Glenn Laing is the sort of fellow to whom laughs come easily.  People, when imagining him, imagine his belting laughs, strung out over gentle conversation and the martini shaker.  On the small seven-mile islet of Great Guana Cay, Glenn is known for his alcoholic concoctions; his bartending prowess has won him many awards.  Forever it seems, Glenn has presided over the bar, shaking the martini shaker amid a handful of drinkers, and a dry sub-tropical woods, and an empty beach, and a beautiful bay called Bakers Bay.

Glenn, a resort manager, a bartender, a man of many hats, is also, in the island nation of the Bahamas, a national hero.  You wouldn’t necessarily at first imagine it.  Glenn is a soft-spoken middle-aged man.  Bahamians from the northern island of Abaco and its many tiny cays have starkly different accents loosely based on their race.  Caucasian loyalists, who settled in Great Guana Cay two-hundred years ago, have accents that resemble their ancestors: British colonists in the new world. 

Administrative

the tiny administrative center for Great guana Cay.
Photo courtesy Save Guana Cay Reef.

Abaconians of African descent, who became free men in the Bahamas, have entirely different dialects; and Glenn, as the only black Bahamian on Great Guana Cay, speaks in this gentle West Indian whirr.

Friends of Glenn refer to him in jest as ‘the ladies man’, but the Glenn people recognize is the one who loves Abaco, and wants to share its rich history with everyone he knows.  He is a genuine Abaconian; a representive of an island region in the Bahamas so different, so isolated, so unique from the rest of the country that only recently in history, the island chain fought and lost in an attempt to become its own nation.

Glenn also happens to be the District Councillor of Great Guana Cay in an administrative unit consisting of Great Guana Cay, Man-O-War Cay and Elbow Cay

In the Abacos, Glenn is known as “Mayor Glenn.”

Normally, a district councillor is the sort who helps speed along the permit process, who votes on regional island matters, fights for well-needed funds to patch pot-holes or to repair pilings on the mail boat dock.  The distant Central Government often ignores Abaco, which with its healthy tourism and timber economy, does more than its fair share in funding the faraway treasury. 

Glenn

Campaign T-Shirt for Mayor Glenn
Photo courtesy Save Guana Cay Reef.

Glenn probably never imagined he’d preside as Great Guana Cay’s elected representative during this time.  Glenn probably never imagined he would preside over Great Guana Cay when the seven mile island began to symbolize to all Bahamians the rights of local communities and Bahamians in general against a distant and arguably corrupt central government.

In 2004, the citizens of Great Guana Cay learned that the Central Government of the Bahamas had designed a questionable relationship with an American golf course developer called Discovery Land Company.  The Central Government would hand over key obligations of its responsibility on Great Guana Cay to Discovery Land Company such as sanitation and waste management, in exchange for granting Discovery Land Company unimaginable rights to build an unimaginable footprint of a golf course, gated community and marina, spanning 2/5ths of the island.  The island’s mangroves would be blasted by dynamite, torn to shreds.  The island would be cut into parts to build an unnatural marina for mega-yachts.  And a consensus among marine scientists would predict that Discovery Land Company’s Bakers Bay Golf and Ocean Club would destroy the nearshore marine environment of the island, which, the locals explained, was vital to their economy and culture.

The world’s top marine biologists and conservationists would join Glenn and the islanders of Great Guana Cay in fighting the quite possibly illegal relationship between the developer and the government, claiming that the development would destroy the island’s coral reef, and that local communities must be afforded a say in the destiny of their own community’s future.

But little could be done.  In the fall of 2005, things started looking bad for the island of Great Guana Cay. 

And then Glenn began feeling chest pains.  A few hours later, a stroke.  In his bed in the days before being flown to the United States, where he continues to this day in recovery, he was talking nonsense, mostly.  He was saying things like this, “I’ve got to save the Bahamas!  I have to get better, so I can save my island!”

Great Guana Cay had seen its first casualty.  Glenn, the island’s public face  was now on some bed thousands of miles away.  A temporary representative could theoretically be elected in his place, but he would have no vote, and no say.


Discovery Land Company, around this time, was moving in for the kill. From the outside, it had appeared that the islanders were growing weak and unable to continue the fight against the foreign developer and the Prime Minister.  The San Francisco golf development company put forward their Bahamian face, Dr. Livingston Marshall, to attack and attempt to discredit the people fighting for their island’s coral reef and community.

That November attack is now known as the Dr. Livingston Marshall paradox.