By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Cable Beach homeowners are furious that a ‘webshop’ is seemingly relocating to their residential area, fearing it will undermine property values and result in increased traffic accidents.
Leslie Munnings, president of the Westward Villas Neighbourhood Association, in a July 9 letter to Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, blasted the “surreptitious manner” in which the property - on the corner of Skyline Drive and Hampshire Street - was being converted for commercial use.
Pointing out that this seemingly violated zoning regulations and the neighbourhood covenants, Mr Munnings questioned whether the ‘Hello’ web shop had obtained the required building permits and Town Planning approvals.
The letter, which was copied to both Michael Major, director of physical planning, and Town Planning Committee chairman, Wilshire Bethel, again raises questions about whether the Bahamas has the capacity and will to enforce its planning laws and regulations.
Setting out the issue, Mr Munnings told the Deputy Prime Minister: “Currently, a ‘web shop’ operating within the Hoffer Plaza and identified externally as ‘Hello’ is apparently in the process of relocating to a residential apartment building within our community, situated at No. 2 Skyline Drive.”
His letter included photos of the particular property, directly opposite The Pot and Cake restaurant (formerly Indigo) and south of Manny’s Pub. The front doors already have the ‘Hello’ logo emblazoned on them and, indeed, the house appears to be undergoing a commercial conversion.
“We strongly and vehemently object and oppose such a business in our community, and will continue to agitate for its removal,” Mr Munnings said.
Pointing out that the neighbourhood covenants, contained in the land conveyance from the original developer restricted development in the area to residential and/or multi-family homes only, he expressed concern that the web shop’s presence would undermine property values.
“We all purchased properties and built our homes predicated on the fact that we would benefit from harmony, serenity and peaceful enjoyment in a residential neighbourhood,” Mr Munnings wrote.
“Many residents feel that the residential appeal of their properties will invariably suffer due to the presence of this type of business.
“The apartment complex is located at a dangerous curve, which when complicated with the resultant increase in vehicular traffic would exasperate an already bad situation with potential accidents waiting to happen.
“We have over the years installed speed bumps and crime watch signs. If this business is allowed to exist in our neighbourhood, we believe traffic accidents will inevitably occur.”
And, expressing concern about the ‘negative perceptions’ some had of the web shop industry, Mr Munnings said Westward Villas residents were also concerned that ‘Hello’s’ presence might lead to “unregulated activities” in that area of Cable Beach.
“We find disturbing the surreptitious manner in which this residential building is seemingly being converted into a business plaza,” the Neighbourhood Association chief concluded.
“We believe that the ‘peace and tranquility’ and ‘quiet enjoyment’ for residents of a community should heavily outweigh, and not be subordinated to, the commercial endeavours.”
In an attached e-mail to Westward Villas residents, Mr Munnings admitted he had initially been sceptical about the apartment building’s conversion into a ‘web shop’.
His mind, though, was changed by the presence of the ‘Hello’ signage and renovation work.
“This morning, I was advised that ‘jitneys have begun stopping at the building assuming that it is already open for business’,” Mr Munnings told residents.
“Your responses of outrage, disappointment, objection and concern have all been noted. The general consensus appears to be that we do not welcome that type of business in the neighbourhood, particularly as there are a number of business plazas in the area to accommodate such enterprises.”
And Westward Villas residents already appear to have their local MP, FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis, on their side. His e-mailed newsletter, containing the web address for a petition against the Skyline Drive web shop, said: “This may be the start of the spread of webshops, maybe one coming within your own community very soon.”