By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
DISNEY Cruise Line Island Development Ltd’s proposal for Lighthouse Point, South Eleuthera was approved by the National Economic Council Friday.
The decision came despite calls from Disney’s competitor, Lighthouse Point Partners, to delay the decision for 60-days to give LPP an equal opportunity to present its proposal for the property to the public.
It is also a perceived blow to the efforts of environmentalists who argued the conglomerate would not be good for the environment.
In a statement, which followed Friday morning, deliberations by the NEC, Cabinet Office said negotiations will now begin on the heads of agreement. These negotiations will detail the scope of the project, Disney’s obligation and those of the government.
The government described this as “the best decision” for the Bahamian people, a sustainable future for residents of Central and South Eleuthera and the economic development of the Bahamas.
“The negotiation of the heads of agreement will commence immediately,” the statement read. “When concluded, it will be presented to Parliament in keeping with the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
“The Cabinet Office wishes to emphasise that the land which is the subject of the proposal is privately owned. It has been on the real estate market for a long period. The land is not Crown Land and is not owned by the Government of The Bahamas.
“The Disney Cruise Lines Development Ltd has a sales agreement with the land owner to purchase the land.”
Cabinet Office went on to note that both the Disney Cruise Lines Island Development Ltd and the One Eleuthera Foundation along with its partners had publicly noted their plans for the development of Lighthouse Point.
It is also noted that recent polling revealed that more than 60 percent of Bahamians “very much” or “somewhat” support Disney’s proposal for Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera.
This was a reference to the controversial Public Domain Poll, which was paid for by Disney and slammed by critics. Among these was reEarth President Sam Duncombe who said the results were “magically skewed”. She was adamant that the poll had been deliberately structured to get the answers Disney needed to make a better case for the acquisition of the property.
The Cabinet Office further seemed to suggest that the One Eleuthera Foundation did not need a 60-day delay to present its plan to the public because it has previously held several town meetings in Central and South Eleuthera.
“The Cabinet Office is also aware of meetings held in the communities of Central and South Eleuthera by respective groups, and live radio broadcasts, which have allowed individuals to express their views,” the statement continued.
“During one of his regular town hall meetings, this one held at the Green Castle Primary School on October 10, 2018, the prime minister informed the people of Central and South Eleuthera of the Government’s plans for the nation and listened to their concerns. During this meeting overwhelming support was expressed for the Disney Cruise Lines Development Ltd proposal.
“The Cabinet Office notes that prior to that town meeting, the One Eleuthera Foundation and its partners held several community meetings in Central and South Eleuthera to promote their proposal.
“This included meetings at Wemyss Bight on 27 July, Deep Creek on 10 August, Tarpum Bay on 17 August, Rock Sound on 31 August and Bannerman Town on 7 September 2018.”
Some of the core elements of the Disney Cruise Lines Island Development Ltd proposal, which are of fundamental importance and to which Disney is committed, include: low density development and sustainable design, public access, and the restoration of various historical and cultural sites, the statement said, adding the development will create approximately 150 new jobs and an array of entrepreneurial opportunities for residents of Eleuthera and Bahamians in general.
As for Disney’s plans Cabinet Office said the developer would convey approximately 190 acres of the land purchased from the private seller to the government of the Bahamas for conservation and a national park.
Other parts of the plan include: “the integration of Bahamian cultural and artistic expression into the design of the site and experiences offered, and partnership with the community to develop training and professional development programmes.
There was also mention of Disney’s impact on the Bahamian economy with Cabinet office noting that the cruise company began cruises to the country in 1998 and since then “significant” impact was made.