DPM 'rejects' $500k solution for Oceania


Tribune Business Editor


The Deputy Prime Minister has rejected a proposal that would have seen homeowners at the controversial Oceania Heights project lumbered with a $500,000 debt repayment obligation.

Chris Fleming, who has emerged as a key player in the dispute between homeowners and developers at the controversial Exuma-based project, told Tribune Business that a proposal had been made to transfer a $500,00 debt - secured on property at Oceania Heights - to the proposed Homeowners Association.

The proposal had come from Bahamian attorney Anthony Thompson, one of Oceania Heights’ two principal developers. The other is Canadian citizen Howard Obront.

A July 23, 2013, letter from Mr Thompson to Sterling Quant, which has been seen by Tribune Business, refers to a draft $500,000 mortgage from Oceania Heights.

“As you are aware, the funds are to be used to defray pressing expenses of Oceania Heights, and additional resources will be applied to the construction of the amenities as agreed with the Property Owners Association,” Mr Thompson wrote.

In response to this, Mr Fleming told Tribune Business: “Are you kidding me? That this obligation has to be picked up by the Homeowners Association?

“The Deputy Prime Minister rejected that, said no chance, forget about it.”

In an e-mail to fellow Oceania Heights homeowners, Mr Fleming said the $500,000 appeared to be secured on property at the development, and that Mr Thompson seemed to be attempting to transfer the repayment obligation to the newly-formed Homeowners Association.

He wrote: “The attached letter from Attorney Thompson suggests that a $500,000 loan secured by property at Oceania Heights, and the loan obligation to be turned over to the Homeowners Association, is necessary to pay some pressing expenses of Oceania Heights Ltd.

“It is believed the expenses are the $207,000 Stamp & Duty payments; approximately $100,000 to Attorney Thompson’s legal counsel; approximately $100,000 for severance payments to Oceania Heights employees; other expenses. The DPM has rejected the request from Mr Thompson.”

Tribune Business can reveal that another meeting was held last week, chaired by Mr Davis, in a bid to move the Oceania Heights situation closer to a resolution. The homeowners were represented by Exuma Chamber of Commerce president, Pedro Rolle, and attorney Andrew O’Brien, while Mr Thompson was also present.

Mr Fleming told Tribune Business that the Deputy Prime Minister had incorrectly believed 60 lots remained for sale at Oceania Heights, when in reality they numbered 20-25 at most.

The difference in number is crucial, because by transferring the unsold lots into the ownership of a Homeowners Association, Mr Davis was planning that the proceeds of any sales be used to complete Oceania Heights’ unfinished infrastructure and amenities.

Mr Fleming said he understood that the Deputy Prime Minister “became upset” upon learning of this difference. In an earlier e-mail, he noted: “Earlier this week we were informed that the DPM was under the belief that there remained 60 unsold lots at Oceania Heights.

“However, our records indicate that there are approximately 20 unsold properties. The difference in repayment is quite different, (60 lots x $200,000 per Lot = $12 million) versus 20 Lots x $200,000 per lot = $4 million.”

Mr Fleming estimated build-out costs for Oceania Heights’ unfinished infrastructure at $4 million, and said he was unsure whether funds generated from selling the remaining lots would be sufficient to cover this.

Meanwhile, he added that Mr Thompson had been ordered to produce a list of homeowners at Oceania Heights that could be cross-checked by himself and Mr Rolle.

“I’m waiting for that,” Mr Fleming told Tribune Business last week. “Mr Thompson was also ordered to write a Power of Attorney transferring the common areas and a number of unsold properties at Oceania Heights to a Homeowners Association.”

He added that if all went to plan, the Oceania Heights homeowners would hold a weekend conference call to vote for officers and directors, and formally establish the Association.

Mr Rolle confirmed such developments were in the works, although he declined to go into specifics when contacted by Tribune Business.

“We’re trying to put some things in place,” he said. “We are trying to get these things together for [this] week really. We’re sending it out to everybody for agreement.

“I think definitely we are at the point, except if something happens, by [this] week to have some kind of agreement in place to say where we are, and the homeowners be reasonably disposed that some progress is being made.

“It’s not what everyone wants, but is better than where we are at the moment. It was a productive meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, but let’s make sure we have an agreement in place that all the homeowners sign off on.”

Meanwhile, in his earlier e-mail, Mr Fleming said neither Mr Thompson nor Mr Obront, who is represented by attorney Michael Scott, had done things requested by Mr Davis.

“The DPM has been working hard to bring a reasonable solution to the difficult situation at Oceania Heights,” Mr Fleming said.

“Specifically, the DPM required attorney Thompson to pay the Government the $207,000 that six owners have previously paid for Stamp & Duty Tax payment; that a Homeowners Association that attorney Thompson and Mr Obront would have nothing to do with (other than being lot and home owners) be established.

“All common area and unsold property at Oceania Heights was to be handed over to the Homeowners Association. Attorney Scott was directed to have Mr Obront repay Mr Gary Close back $200,000 for the double selling of Lot 39; repay the Nedzel’s $113,000 in excess interest charges; repay the DeLong’s $47,000 for Stamp & Duty payments which were never made.

“Also, the existing infrastructure to existing un-served areas needs to be installed. Currently there are a number of roadways which only have a binder paving coat and no water or electricity, and the entire resort needs to have the finish pavement coat installed.”

Mr Fleming added: “There have been a small group of people who have committed both time and money (lawyers) towards this effort.

“We understand the investment at Oceania has been a nightmare, but please remember, it has also been one for us. Progress is slow, but progress nonetheless.”


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