By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
SUPPORT against development in Abaco has swelled as residents claim the dredged site was the first landing of Loyalists to the island.
Although unsanctioned dredging in a creek near the entrance of Treasure Cay was reportedly stopped on Wednesday, residents plan to move forward with their petition against developers of the proposed Treasure Cay hotel and fishing lodge, Sand Bar Club and Spa.
The Tribune understands that the developers did not receive the government’s cease and desist order until Monday, although it was claimed that it had been sent to North Abaco MP Renardo Curry much earlier. It is said the order was only delivered after residents complained about the dredging to Administrator Neil Campbell. However, neither developer nor Mr Curry has responded to calls for comment.
The Treasure Cay Property Owners Association (TCPOA), which represents some 900 residents and home owners in the settlement, have come out in support of calls for all development to be stopped pending full environmental review.
Stephen Kappeler, General Manager of Treasure Cay Resort, Marina and Golf Club and TCPOA Board Director said: “Many of our work force, residents and homeowners are shocked at the uncontrolled excavation of our marshes and fisheries, perhaps without proper permits and plans in place for such a devastation of our natural resource.”
TCPOA Chairman Marty Olsen added: “I have not met a resident or homeowner that is pleased with what is happening and the way it is happening. The TCPOA and the people of Treasure Cay are indeed in favour of the petition to stop any work on the beach or in the marshes of Treasure Cay without the proper approvals, plans, and, most of all, without communication with the people of Abaco and their input.”
According to a letter from the Bahamas Investment Authority, dated May 27, the Sand Bar Club was granted approval by the National Economic Council to develop a two-storey 12-suite hotel with related facilities on the eastern beach front, and to receive concessions under the Hotels Encouragement Act.
The application by the Sand Bar Club and Spa Ltd to develop a Fishing Lodge with a mini pier; a 4-slip dock; picnic area; two tennis courts; two car parks; green areas; a yoga hut; nature trails and exercise tract on the western portion of the privately owned 9.2 acre property, was also approved.
However, development was subject to the submission of an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to the Ministry of the Environment and the BEST Commission, approval by the BEST Commission for dredging and approval of the license relative to land reclamation by the Prime Minister.
An application to have the permit revoked for the construction of a new dock, which could be the first on Treasure Cay beach, was submitted on Monday.
Last Friday, residents held a rally at the public beach facility near the entrance to the gated community. According to Mr Olsen, some 150 people attended.
Residents allege that the dredging site has historical importance as it was the landing of the first Loyalists in 1783.
Artifacts believed to have been removed from the site are on display at the Treasure Cay Beach Hotel.
Bahamas National Trust Executive Director Eric Carey has called on the government to act immediately to hold developers accountable for blatant “abuse of privilege”, and disregard for a standard environmental process recognized in most coastal destinations.
Last week, Mr Carey revealed that the BNT was actively considering establishing the area as a protected site.
Fiona Bootle, a resident, said: “Apparently they have markers out there to go all the way through the entire creek. I wish the government would stop from playing games and tell people what it is they’re actually doing. If they feel there is nothing wrong why aren’t they telling people about it. Why would you dig up the mangroves if you’re doing a bonefishing lodge, what are they thinking, and why are they holding back from us?”
She added: “They’ve abused the privilege, the dock permit was granted, but they made the public feel like the dock permit that’s there is for the actual dredging. They were using that to deceive the public, so we feel that the dock permit should be revoked as well.”
On Wednesday, State Minister for Investment Khaalis Rolle refused to comment further on the matter.
Last week, Mr Rolle confirmed that a cease and desist order had been issued to the Sand Bar Club and Spa after it was discovered that developers had started dredging without the required approvals from the BEST Commission.