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Keep Your Hands Off: Sir Frankie Dealt Blow Over Land Ownership - But Locals Lose Out Too

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Sir Franklyn Wilson

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Sir Franklyn Wilson, pictured, yesterday pledged that the Privy Council’s rejection of his development company’s claim to 2,086 acres “in no way changes our plans and commitment” to South Eleuthera.

The Arawak Homes chairman, speaking after the Bahamian judicial system’s highest court found Eleuthera Properties had neither documentary nor possessory title to the long-disputed property near Bannerman Town, emphasised there was no impact to its planned developments at Cotton Bay and Jack’s Bay.

“Eleuthera Properties remains committed to south Eleuthera, and the decision of the Privy Council in no way changes that commitment,” Sir Franklyn told Tribune Business, revealing that the developer had invested some $100m in the area since 1988.

“This ruling does not change our vision or sense of future [possibilities]. It’s important to note this property is physically separate; in no way is it related to the land we have earmarked for a luxury resort and marina community to be developed by a subsidiary of Eleuthera Properties.”

That subsidiary is Jack’s Bay Investments, which Sir Franklyn previously revealed could be taken public via a listing on the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) as early as the 2019 first quarter.

Jack’s Bay, which Eleuthera Properties is developing in partnership with TGR Designs, a firm owned by world-renowned golfer, Tiger Woods, and Beacon Land Management, is just one of its landholdings in the South Eleuthera area.

They also include Cotton Bay and Davis Harbor, and build-out activities are accelerating with Eleuthera Properties “close to finalising a Heads of Agreement” with the Minnis administration for development of its substantial landholdings.

“No change: That’s the bottom line,” Sir Franklyn reiterated of the impact from the Privy Council’s ruling. “It’s [the disputed property] physically separate, and in no no way linked or otherwise connected to what we have developed.

“There’s a lot of land that we own in South Eleuthera... The point that I’m making is this ruling does not affect what we’re doing, and what we’re doing is already having an impact.

“For the purposes of Jack’s Bay and the marina, we are focused on where we want to start first. The idea is once we do that, a rising tide lifts all ships,” he continued.

“For example, the value of beachfront lots in south Eleuthera has risen to seven figures. There’s no precedent for that. When we sold our first lot for $1m, several realtors came to us and said we’re doing very well.”

Sir Franklyn added that Eleuthera Properties was already setting the stage for further development in the area, and explained: “Just before I went into this meeting with my attorney, the last document I signed was for a transaction we’re doing with the Hotel Corporation, which is the forerunner of another document that will trigger more development in south Eleuthera.

“We have a transaction that depends on us first concluding an arrangement with the Hotel Corporation. Once that happens this gentleman will conclude his transaction, and it will be more positive for south Eleuthera.”

However, Sir Franklyn and Eleuthera Properties’ opponents, the Bannerman Town, Millars and John Millars Eleuthera Association, were yesterday celebrating the Privy Council verdict as the “second best result” for denying the developer the property.

While the Privy Council did not grant the Association its long-sought Certificate of Title to the 2,086-acre property, one of their legal advisers said its members “still regard it as a win”.

Richard Lightbourn, the former FNM MP and now consultant at the McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes law firm, told Tribune Business: “From their perspective it’s a win because Sir Franklyn didn’t get it.

“From their perspective, it’s still regarded as a victory. Where we go forward we’ll have to wait and see, but our people have gained a degree of occupancy and, in line with the court ruling, Sir Franklyn has no occupancy in that regard.”

Mr Lightbourn said he and the other attorneys will meet with the Association’s principals today to “go over things”, adding: “We’re a little disappointed that the court didn’t go as far as granting the Association a certificate of title. This is certainly the second best result; that at least it was not given to Eleuthera Properties Ltd.”

The Privy Council, in its verdict, said it was “dismayed” by finding, “not without considerable regret”, that neither the Association nor the developer had proven their claim to ownership of the land through the Quieting Titles Act.

It acknowledged that its verdict effectively “locks up” the land, and will likely prevent its use for major development purposes. Mr Lightbourn described its appeal, with four to five miles’ of beach, as “exceptional”, adding: “Most people wouldn’t be aware of it because it’s somewhat hidden. There’s no real road to go over to the ocean side.”

That led to several observers suggesting to Tribune Business that the 2,086 acres be used either by Disney for its cruise port, or by Lighthouse Point Partners, given the current battle over the 700-acre Lighthouse Point property nearby.

However, the Privy Council acknowledged that its ruling was likely to deter any developer interest, since extreme risk would accompany any such activity in the absence of valid title ownership.

“This may well have adverse consequences for any development potential for the property, and it will certainly impede the achievement by the Association of its main ambition, namely to secure for all the descendants sufficient title to the property to enable them to continue to enjoy it, as and when they may choose to do so, now and in the future,” the Privy Council added.

“If either of those consequences are regarded as sufficiently antipathetic to the public interest then, in the Board’s view, they can only be resolved by legislation.”

The verdict effectively preserves the “status quo”, with members of the Association using small portions of the 2,086 acres for minor farming activities and such like. Its fate produced three different verdicts at each stage of the Bahamian judicial system, culminating in yesterday’s finding that no one can show ownership rights to the land.

The Supreme Court initially found Eleuthera Properties had proven documentary title to the property, which had its roots in efforts by Arthur Vining Davis, the Miami developer in the 1950s, to buy out all descendants of the Millar estate - to whom the Association and its members traced their ownership to.

The Court of Appeal, in a split verdict, saw the majority find that Eleuthera Properties had proven it had a possessory title to the land as a result of its conduct between 1988 and 2010. It rejected both the Association’s claim and the developer’s documentary title.

Finally, the Privy Council dismissed all claims yesterday. “The Board has, not without considerable regret, been driven to the conclusion that neither of the surviving competitors in these proceedings has established such title to the property as ought to be reflected in a certificate granted under the Quieting Titles Act,” the Privy Council said.

“The Board is dismayed that this lengthy, and no doubt extremely expensive process, has not quieted this title at all. This is not a case in which it has been possible to choose which is the better, or even the least worst, of competing titles, even though the process of advertisement of claims and barring of potential claimants reduced the number of applicants to five, and the number of survivors before the Board to two. The sad reality is that neither of the surviving claimants have proved any title at all.”

The Privy Council said persons “at present making sufficient use of” small portions of the property might be able to resist eviction as a result of their “possession”, but its ruling provided no total protection.

Comments

Clamshell 1 year, 1 month ago

Poor Neil Hartnell has fallen for the lie that Franklyn Wilson is working in a partnership with Tiger Woods. Tiger’s firm has been hired to design a golf course. Period. And it’s not even an actual golf course, it’s a 10-hole “short course.”

Tiger Woods does not have one thin dime of his own money invested in that development, and it’s a shame that Mr. Hartnell has been sucked into repeating the phony story that Mr. Wilson and Mr. Woods are partners there. The moment the checks start bouncing, Mr. Woods will bounce outta there as well.

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Porcupine 1 year, 1 month ago

Mr. Wilson, A rising tide does not lift all ships. The economic tide has been rising for most of our lives. The one thing that has not been happening, is the rising of all ships. Not even the dinghy owners among us. Look at the growth in GDP in the Bahamas. Now look at the minimum wage. You think we fool, eh? What is undeniable is that as humanity becomes more productive, fewer and fewer people share the wealth. Delete that long dead, a rising tide foolishness from your vocabulary. The reports and the truth are undeniable. The world's wealth is becoming more concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. This is fact. Please be truthful, or do your homework, understanding that greedily grabbing every dollar that passes in front of you is really not helping those around you. I know it's hard to swallow with the celebrity status of rich people around the world.

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stoner 1 year, 1 month ago

If Mr.Wilson has no title,he has no title and must get off the land.If he started developing,then it is too bad that he has invested in a property that he has NO TITLE. It seems to me that the original owner is still the owner and must have the title.Mr.Wilson must come up with the original title or forfeit an get off the property and bite the bullet.

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CaptainCoon 1 year, 1 month ago

That quieting act is nothing but theft sanctioned by the state. SAD!

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bogart 1 year, 1 month ago

DA BAHAMIAN GUBBERMINT SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE ......FINAL SAY ON NATIONS LAND....AS A INDEPEMDENT SOVEREIGN NATION.....NOT NOONE ELSE.....If land dont have clear owner govt should have it be emminrnt domain....so PORE BAHAMIANS CAN BE PROTECTED BY RICH PEOPLE CLAIMING THEIR FAMILY LAND.....GUBBERMINT DONE been doing this with bank accounts wid dormant.money.....!!!!!...Pore people needs protection...!!!

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bogart 1 year, 1 month ago

Hi licks2.....for decades now when any bank account does not show activity.....the bank account is classified as "dormant"...this inacivity is to stop persons hiding fumds while living abroad ..etc.....and the proceeds are then sent to the Central Bank where it is kept....until the rightful owners can with the correct documentation and meeting lawful requirements to retrieve these monies......Similarly if any land has no owner for the time being....it sholld be legally protected by the state via emminent fomain .....otherwise in an escrow state...lest the unscrupulous...or persons desiring it simply do the Quieting of Title process to avquire it...The pore unable to pay lasyers...those owmers who dont see the tiny print of the Quieting Notices if and when they buy the newspapers.....the vague descrittions names of owners many years prior....all act against the rightful owmers....

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bogart 1 year, 1 month ago

For a bit more fairness to the usually in the dark kept persons whose land is being QUIETED by the usually wealthier person with their own lawyers snd Surveyor..experts... the govt should mamdate that the respective land .....to be placed under its perview or control...then........first .1..to have the massive govt agencies who definitely have more records and likely proof whose land it is than the Privy Council two. 2..The govt has more personnell to track down and give fair notice to suspect owners.....three.3... No rich person who acquiring by Quieting land shall manipulate media through vague descripyions leading yo mislead four.4... The Bahamian people who you can put little past will be the jury knowing more than any wanna be Quieting person who is the tru tru owner of the land...five 5...Persons knowingly and fraudently cheating pore persons out of their rightful claim of land be given fine and jail time.. Way past time that this evil part of land acquiring be chamged to bring fairness to people

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 1 month ago

Quieting Titles Act has been around from the times of the UBP .......... Why have the PLP and FNM not abolish it???????? ............. Because crooked politicians and their PEPs benefit from it.

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Clamshell 1 year, 1 month ago

Please. You have to have a quiet-title function in order to establish legal ownership of real estate and secure the legal transfer of property. Without it, disputes over land just drag out in the courts forever, with no resolution (but a lotta lawyers get rich in the meantime.) Every civilized, law-based society has this function. If not, every homeowner in the United States and Canada would be fighting with the Cherokees and the Sioux over who actually owns their land.

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bogart 1 year, 1 month ago

Google tribune Privy Council details 'Quiet' model fraud -Jul 31, 2014 tribune DPM: Quieting Act 'inherently unfair' - Nov 3, 2017 tribune Five more families hit by land fraud - Apr 26, 2016 tribune 'Land theft' concerns on Quieting Titles Act - Jan 2, 2013 tribune Developer urges G'ovt: Reform quieting of Titles - Jan 7, 2013

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 1 month ago

"...This is not a case in which it has been possible to choose which is the better, or even the least worst..."

So with murder the Privy Council talks about the worst of the worst. With land they talk about the least worst.

Why always "worst"? Are they "glass half empty" kind of fellows?

Hopefully they will soon rule that the whole Bahamas is the worst of the worst and we can all be hung by the neck and put out of our misery.

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bogart 1 year, 1 month ago

RE: Hatter...Dey probably laughing that the bestest of Bahamian lawyers...educated at bestest English education ....graduating....Kings...Inns...Greys..still running back to England even after independence..45 years ago for approvals an decisions....an...an...an...even Caribbean .people can become Baroness an high English ranks....even though Bahamian govt has power to make the Court of Appeal the final say....it isnt all the Bahamians Hatter.....its some that insist on going back to the Privy Council....

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