By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
NORTH Eleuthera’s MP yesterday admitted there are “legitimate” concerns over a Harbour Island development’s massive expansion given the insufficient infrastructure to accommodate it.
Howard “Ricky” Mackey told Tribune Business of the 4M Harbour Island project, which is set to increase five-fold as a result of a November 2018 land acquisition: “There is a legitimate argument to be made, and that is whether or not the current infrastructure can handle the additional strain that would take place with the proposed development.
“The second phase of the project is much more extensive than the first, and there are legitimate concerns being expressed. As the MP for the area I have to weigh the concerns of these stakeholders, and I have to be careful as to how I deal with this. I did support the marina in the first phase; that’s public record. At the town hall meeting I spoke to that.
“While it hasn’t changed in the sense that I believe Harbour Island could handle the additional business, I am concerned with the fact that our current infrastructure levels cannot handle it. As the representative of the area I am aware of the fact that the Government is moving rapidly to remedy that, and once that is done I would be less concerned.”
Many residents and second home owners have expressed concern that the development, now called Briland Residences & Marina and headed by US investor Michael Wiener, is set to become much larger than initially planned. If the expansion plans are approved, the development will expand across the width of the island, creating fears that the pristine environment and quaint charm of the community will be eroded.
Mr Mackey told Tribune Business he had been assured that the proposal to run a canal cutting through the small island “is not going to happen”.
“That canal, that is not going to happen. I have that assurance. I agree that can’t happen,” he said. “I have been assured that there is no way in the world approval would be given for cutting a canal into Harbour Island.
“That is a part of what has angered a lot of the residents of Harbour Island. The developers, I’m quite certain, knew that wasn’t going to be approved but they had it up on their website and a lot of people were angry about that. I understand that was taken down but persons still have questions.”
The National Economic Council (NEC) gave an approval-in-principle to 4m Harbour Island to develop the 5.6 acre Harbour Island Marina project on October 6, 2017.
The Bahamas Environment Science Technology (BEST) Commission approved the developer’s environmental studies on December 11, 2017, and the Heads of Agreement was signed on March 14, 2018, although it has never been made public.
In November 2018, the Government approved-in-principle the developer’s acquisition of a further 21.4 acres of land and an expanded marina resort comprising “a waterfront restaurant, a gourmet food store, retail stores, restaurants and spa facilities, cottages, villas and suit [and four] over-the-water bungalows, subject to meeting the requirements”. The project now cakls for an “exclusive 27-acre waterfront community with 83 residences”.
Mr Mackey said: “There is also concern being expressed by many, both local residents and second home owners, that the development of Harbour Island - and its explosive growth - is not being developed in an organised manner.
“We have literally had a construction boom in Harbour Island for the past 20-plus years, and the traffic issue is something that has to be addressed. Just on Saturday I was trying to navigate through the island and it was madness.”
Mr Mackey added: “I can only image what will happen if the expansion goes forward. I am not faulting persons for asking questions, and I’m not faulting persons for saying this appears to be a deviation from what was initially proposed, and they are concerned about it because the concerns are legitimate.
“We want development in a systematic, organised respectful way. Change will come, and my only concern is that we do it properly and respectfully so that persons don’t feel slighted.”