By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar has addressed controversy surrounding proposals to develop Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, saying although the 700-acre property is privately owned, the government will not sanction the commercial development of the actual lighthouse site or the surrounding beach.
However, he said the debate is continuing as to whether the entire property will be deemed “off-limits” for commercial development or if the government will allow a portion of it to be developed.
Mr D’Aguilar made these remarks during a press conference held at the Bahamas Development Bank.
When asked if his ministry has any response to the pushback from the Bahamas National Trust and other environmentalists regarding proposals to develop Lighthouse Point, the tourism minister said: “Let me dispel some theories about Lighthouse Point. First of all, the government of the Bahamas doesn’t own Lighthouse Point. That’s a privately held piece of land down there.”
However, he added that he can “assure” that the Minnis administration will not sanction commercial development “of the specific site where the lighthouse is.”
“Now that’s a big site,” he continued. “Seven hundred acres. So the question that’s being (thrown) around is: Do we make it all off-limits completely to any commercial development? Do we allow a portion of it to be commercially developed?
“But I could tell you that whole lighthouse beach, around that lighthouse beach, there’s no way the government is going to sanction any development.
“But, nothing has happened and you can rest assured and you can report to the Bahamian people that we’re not going to allow that treasure to be developed in a commercial sense…Have you ever been to that lighthouse? It’s absolutely stunning.
“And you go to that beach and the beach around it, there’s no, no sitting politician that will allow for any commercial development, certainly at that point and the beaches around it.
“Now way over in one section by one swamp or something, I don’t know,” he laughed.
“I’m not going to box the government in to say that all 700 acres are not going to be developed. But I can certainly speak for the area around that lighthouse. It’s absolutely stunning.”
Lighthouse Point is a 700-acre peninsula located at the southern tip of Eleuthera.
Disney Cruise Line is said to be one of several groups making proposals to acquire and develop the area.
Sam Duncombe, of reEarth, told The Tribune on August 12 that a meeting was held in Eleuthera on August 2, during which flyers were distributed detailing Disney’s interest and proposals for the area.
“In consultation with community leaders in South Eleuthera, who have expressed their support for the project, Disney Cruise Line is considering a second managed cruise destination in the Bahamas at Lighthouse Point,” the flyer noted.
The flyer also says Disney is committed to “a significantly smaller and less dense development than what others have previously proposed for Lighthouse Point, which is currently privately owned by another developer.”
Mrs Duncombe said the information in the flyer was presented in the meeting by a representative of the cruise line.
She expressed serious concerns about the impact this proposal will have on the environment and said Lighthouse Point should instead be turned into a national park, as has been suggested by the One Eleuthera Foundation.
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) announced its support for such an endeavour in a statement released on August 9.
In addition, the Institute of Bahamian Architects has called for the preservation of Lighthouse Point. The group has said it “deplores the proposed resort development” on “one of the most precious and beautiful parts of the Bahamas” and called on the government to purchase the land, The Nassau Guardian reported.
In May, Disney Cruise Lines spokeswoman Kim Prunty responded to concerns about the proposed sale in a statement.
Mrs Prunty said while the cruise line didn’t have “anything to share about a specific location” at the time, any project pursued by the company in the future would involve a “partnership with the community” and build on its commitment to “sustainability, protecting the environment, creating jobs and economic opportunity, and celebrating the culture and stories of the area.”