By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
A COALITION of environmental organisations and local developers have proposed a phased development for the highly sought after Lighthouse Point property valued at more than $23 million.
The alliance, which is comprised of the Bahamas National Trust, Leon Levy Foundation, One Eleuthera Foundation, The Island School, Cape Eleuthera Institute and several other local organisations described as having "deep and enduring commitments to the Eleuthera community," made its pitch to officials from the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis did not attend the meeting, according to a representative for the coalition.
Nonetheless, the group's 42-page proposal centred on establishing a Lighthouse Point National Park on the multi-acre peninsula.
The national park seeks to preserve the site's natural and cultural assets, according to the coalition's proposal.
The park would feature 800-acres of preserved natural environment; an extensive trail system with boardwalks and interpretive signage; a visitor centre; viewing platforms and towers; improved access roads and sustainable infrastructure; a weather station; marine conservation and environmental education programmes and an extensive marine protected area.
Additionally, the group has proposed constructing a sustainable development which will include a 100-unit eco-lodge and a learning and research centre with space to accommodate a 20-person class on a 100-acre site adjacent to the national park.
The proposal also noted the project is designed to stimulate and facilitate economic opportunity in the surrounding communities by attracting internationally-recognised, best-in-class eco-tourism brands as anchors to provide the stable economic underpinning upon which local entrepreneurship could operate.
The coalition claims the project should yield permanent economic contributions of 190 jobs, $7.7m in annual earnings, $13.76m in economic output annually, $11.56m in annual GDP increase and $300,000 in annual NIB payments.
This, the coalition says, would be in addition to one-time economic contributions of 166 persons per year for construction, $11.25m in earnings, $16.9m in economic output, $14.3 one-time GDP increase and $438,000 in NIB payments; over two years of construction.
Over the last decade, One Eleuthera had pitched a previous proposal to local organisations and successive governments, hoping to secure funding and support for its initial bid to acquire Lighthouse Point.
The major difference in what was presented Friday and that initial proposal, comes in the clarification of the organisation's funding.
One Eleuthera has, in the past, been reluctant to disclose its sources of financing, an issue that has led many residents in Eleuthera to speculate that the foundation was being funded by donors positioning themselves to acquire the property for their own self-interests.
However, the proposal put forward on Friday included letters of "financial capability" submitted by the Leon Levy Foundation trustee Shelby White and One Eleuthera's president and chair, Lane Glaze - a combination which has raised and invested in excess of $16m in Eleuthera, according to the proposal.
Additionally, signed and dated letters of interest and support were included from the Little Island Group's owner and CEO, Ben Simmons; the Holowesko Partners, Mark and Lauren Holowesko; and the Bahamas Boutique Hotels Group Limited chairman, Peter Andrews.
The proposal also featured a phase-cost breakdown for the $23m development and the prerequisite land acquisition cost.
The first and second phases of the development - pre development and initial national park improvements and an expanded visitor centre and national park amenities, respectively - a $7m value, would be covered by the coalition.
Phase three, the construction of the eco-tourism resort and supportive amenities, estimated at $10m plus in the proposal, would be covered by unnamed development partners.
Lastly, phase four, the research, education and training facility, estimated at $6m, would be covered by the coalition and various grants.
The coalition also would cover land acquisition costs.
The group's 42-page pitch also noted that the development would be constructed and laid out over three to five years.
The proposal further noted: "Local job creation will occur promptly upon site acquisition as we undertake the labour-intensive process of site work and stewardship on hundreds of acres of National Park grounds."
It added: "Through intentional partnerships with individuals and organisations who share a common vision, Lighthouse Point will become a model for preservation, sustainable development, and workforce training that leaves no one behind.
"This proposal is locally driven and harnesses international partnerships to support the creation of a world-class eco-tourism resort destination that protects and celebrates the unique history of the area and its people."
Supporters of the coalition have sought to block Disney’s acquisition of Lighthouse Point, claiming the cruise line's plan would be unsustainable and hazardous to Eleuthera's eco-system.
The cruise company has taken preparatory steps to acquire the historic site for the construction of multi-million-dollar cruise port, promising a $400m spend.
Dr Minnis is expected to make a final decision on the project on Tuesday.