By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamian developer behind the proposed $63m Adelaide Pines project yesterday asserted that “we’ve gone above and beyond to make sure it’s environmentally sensitive” despite concerns the density is too high.
Robert Myers, who has partnered with Albany’s developer and two UK investors to construct the south-west New Providence gated community, told Tribune Business that the Certificate of Environmental Clearance’s (CEC) granting showed that all environmental concerns have been satisfied.
Adelaide Pines will be a mixed-use development featuring 180 single family home sites, warehouse storage space and 19-25 lots allocated for light industry, as well as retail and office facilities. Its developers believe it will help fill the void for middle income housing in fast-growing western New Providence, enabling employees to live in close proximity to their workplaces by narrowing the shortage of available residential options that presently exists.
“We are looking to create a lovely mixed-use development in the west,” Mr Myers told this newspaper. “We were attracted to the site because we feel it could be a middle income community that has the feel of the Out Islands in Nassau. We just think the area, as the west develops, there’s not a lot of middle income housing for working class people.
“There’s a bid need. People are gainfully employed, and want to have families in a nice community with a level of security and safety that maintains that asset. There’s a desperate need for that type of development in that vicinity.” Coral Harbour, Adelaide Village, Adelaide Estates and Mount Pleasant are among the few options open to middle and low income families in western New Providence.
However, environmentalists and Adelaide residents yesterday voiced concerns about the community’s impact if the Government agencies give the full go-ahead and issue all the necessary permits. Sam Duncombe, head of reEarth, the environmental group, and an Adelaide resident joked that Adelaide Pines should be renamed “Adelaide No Pines” because few such trees will be left when the development is finished.
“They’ve got some sort of artificial lake in the middle of it,” she added, “and that’s going to expose the ground water. It’s where one of the biggest fresh water lenses is. It’s the biggest fresh water lens in New Providence; the whole south-west portion almost up to the north is a massive water lens. That’s a concern.
“We keep talking about sea level rise and climate change, and keep ploughing trees and filling in natural spaces where the water drain. If that [Adelaide Pines] gets developed, and the other plot east of it gets developed, that’s going to seriously affect Adelaide Village.
Mrs Duncombe voiced fears that the loss of pine forest, and development on top of the water lens, would both remove a natural storm surge barrier and expose the Adelaide area to increased flooding during hurricanes and heavy rainstorms.
“The density of the project is high density. They have 180 homes in 30 acres. They’re going to have some retail there, some light industry, whatever that is. The Airport Industrial Park is down the road. Is this just another one? We have no idea what light industry is going to be there, and that raises its own issues,” she added.
“When I submitted my comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), I said it has to be drastically reduced in size and density... There’s a finite amount of land left in New Providence, but at what point are we going to say no more here? At what point do we say this is not a good idea for this island? Until every green space is developed to death by developers? We are our own worst enemies.”
Ray Stuart, another Adelaide Village resident, told Tribune Business his main concern after reviewing the Adelaide Pines proposal at the Department of Physical Planning was the potential impact on the wetlands. “My concern is the wetlands. A lot of the wetlands have been destroyed in Nassau. I think they might need to scale that down and leave some of the wetlands,” he added.
“As far as land to build homes, there’s no problem if it’s dry land, but leave the wetlands. That’s my main concern. I plan to go to the meeting to see what they’re really talking about. I’m also anxious to see the exact spot where they’re putting that. I don’t understand the plans too well in terms of location.”
Mr Myers, in response, said the concerns being raised were clearly addressed in the EIA. He explained that Adelaide Pines would create and feature its own wetland area, and added: “All of that is addressed in the EIA. Every bit of it is addressed in the EIA. We spent a lot of time, and are going to put a lot of effort in, to making sure that’s right because we want to do the right thing.”
While the Water & Sewerage Corporation will be responsible for supplying Adelaide Pines with water, Mr Myers said rather than going into deep wells, the developers planned to treat the waste water and return it to the water table after undergoing “a special process”. He added: “We are absolutely 100 percent preserving the water table and redirecting where we drain into a constructed wetland as opposed to muddy marshes.
“We’re maintaining the wetlands, just relocating them so all the run-off can benefit the water table and the larger area. They’ve done a very good job, the environmental and engineering teams, of creating an environmentally sensitive community. They’ve met the requirements. I think we’ve gone above and beyond to make sure we’re environmentally sensitive, and that costs.”
Mr Myers pointed to the proposed Adelaide Pines lake, which he described as a “sunk cost” for the developers. He added that the project’s light industrial component will not be “massively noise”, because if it is “invasive and intrusive it’s going to cannibalise” real estate sales.
However, notes on the Government’s National Economic Council (NEC) meeting from January 25, 2022, when Adelaide Pines was approved subject to getting the necessary planning and other permits, reveal that environmental and other concerns were raised.
These included suggestions that Mr Myers and his partners should be warned “not to disturb or destroy the said land” given Adelaide’s rich archaeological history. “Reservations were raised regarding granting approval for developers to tamper with historically sensitive areas such as Adelaide that was once a settlement for emancipated African slaves,” the notes said.
“In light of the rich archaeological history of key sites throughout The Bahamas conjoined with foreign direct interests, the Council noted that studies should be conducted throughout the country” to help identify the “common good” for Bahamians and other stakeholders, and to help develop a plan for each island when it came to future investment projects.
The NEC members also suggested that recent measures introduced by the Turks & Caicos Islands to prevent developers unnecessarily removing vegetation could also be adopted in The Bahamas.
“Council concluded that the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs should include a provision in the Heads of Agreement which requires the developer to preserve the natural vegetation of the property,” the notes said.