• ‘Too bad’ developer, residents ‘can’t meet half-way’
• Ex-BREA chief: ‘We need King Solomon’ for this
• Appeal Board ‘deliberating’ over planning verdict
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A former two-time Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) president yesterday said it was “too bad” a developer and Love Beach residents “cannot meet half-way” as both sides await a planning appeal’s outcome.
William Wong, also The Bahamas’ ambassador to Morocco, joked to Tribune Business that “we need King Solomon” to intervene amid continued opposition to the “high rise” Passion Point development proposed by Jason Kinsale, the Aristo Development chief behind projects such as Balmoral on Sandford Drive, ONE Cable Beach and Aqualina.
The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board was yesterday said to be “deliberating” over its decision after Love Beach residents united in a bid to overturn the “preliminary approval” granted by the Town Planning Committee to Mr Kinsale for two seven-storey condo buildings, which will feature 61 three-bedroom units in total.
The appeal was heard on September 27, with the plans attracting objections from prominent neighbours including Sir Baltron Bethel, former senior policy adviser to then-prime minister Perry Christie, plus developers Scott Godet and Peter Whitehead. Concerns include Passion Point’s size being totally out of character with everything else that exists at Love Beach, and alleged violations of the area’s “single family zoning” regulations
But Mr Wong, who himself will become one of Passion Point’s next-door neighbours in Garden of Eden if the former receives all the necessary approvals to proceed, told this newspaper he was disappointed that Mr Kinsale had not been able to reach a compromise with Love Beach residents that was satisfactory to both sides.
“I can sympathise with the neighbours, I really could,” he said, “because it will really disturb their piece of paradise with the construction and buildings going up. I believe it will cause some headaches. But my main income comes from being a real estate man, and one way I look at it is it’s going to increase the value of our properties.
“I sympathise with my neighbours and wish we could keep that part of New Providence quiet and that there be not so much traffic. I can see both sides of the coin. This [project] will bring more investment into the country, more foreign exchange earnings. Construction is probably the best indicator of money trickling down to everybody.
“I would love Love Beach to stay the way I met it 30 years ago, but progress goes on. The way I look at it is that it will enhance my property’s value,” Mr Wong continued, although he agreed that Passion Point as proposed is both too tall and not in character with other buildings and structures in the area.
“I don’t really agree with the seven or eight storeys,” he added. “I thought he could do it a bit more lower scale, such as two storeys. Seven storeys is a bit much, and will probably end up blocking the views of my neighbours. It’s too bad the developer can’t meet them half-way, but they are working with a limited amount of property and trying to maximise their bottom line by having more people live there.
“I think we need King Solomon in on this one. I’m not a big lover of high-rise buildings, but I can understand that because of the amount of land they have they are trying to maximise their bottom line. I think they’re trying to squeeze in every piece of construction they can get in.”
Mr Wong’s assertion that Passion Point’s development will boost Love Beach real estate values was not universally shared by his fellow neighbours. However, he suggested that the developer could seek higher prices from buyers by doing a smaller, lower-scale project than the two condo buildings.
Mr Kinsale declined to comment yesterday on the grounds that he wanted to respect the appeal process integrity. “I can’t comment right now with the appeal going on,” he explained. “I just can’t comment right now. Once the appeal decision comes out, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, I can comment then.”
Sir Baltron, meanwhile, told Tribune Business he was not against development provided it did not “denigrate” the Love Beach area, was in keeping with its character, and complied with all zoning and other applicable laws and regulations.
“My concerns are the height and the density,” he explained of his opposition. “It’s out of character with the entire area. It’s remained zoned one-storey residential for over 50 years, and then there’s the traffic. It’s being built on a curve in a narrow space near the ocean. There are also times when there are high winds and storm surge, and that area floods. Those are the main concerns.
“I’m not against the development as long as it’s done with proper density and in character with what the zoning regulations have been. I’m not against development; I’m all for it, as long as it’s done within established zoning conditions which are not going to denigrate the area... I would hope that an appeal will quash what has been an approval in principle.”
Sir Baltron said another concern is that, should Passion Point’s existing design and plans be approved, it will establish a precedent that will effectively pave the way for other developers to propose similar high-rise structures at Love Beach. He also questioned whether Mr Kinsale had met all the conditions set by the Town Planning Committee as part of its decision to give “preliminary approval”.
These conditions, according to Town Planning Committee meeting minutes, include obtaining approval for the project’s height from the Civil Aviation Authority, given its proximity to Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) and planes taking-off and landing, plus a satisfactory traffic impact assessment and meeting the requirements of the Ministry of Works’ civil design section.
Meka McWeeney, an 18-year Love Beach resident, yesterday said no one - apart from Mr Kinsale and his attorney, Ramonne Gardner of Lennox Paton - spoke in favour of the existing Passion Point design at the Appeals Board hearing. “Everyone at the meeting opposed it, nobody at the meeting was in support of it other than Mr Kinsale and his lawyer,” she told Tribune Business.
“Their argument in the appeal meeting was that there are no restrictions on the height on his conveyance. But everyone knows the zoning of residential is not going to be high rise. Everyone knows in The Bahamas that if it is zoned residential there are restrictions on height. And the area is not even multi-family.
“The community feels like, OK, we would accept low-rise if it was re-zoned multi-family, something in keeping with the community. Instead, you’re going from residential to multi-family to high density. It will completely change the character of Love Beach.”
In contrast with Mr Wong, Ms McWeeney voiced fears that allowing Passion Point to proceed “will devalue our property. We think it will change our quality of life. We are afraid of the domino effect that will come from it. If this is allowed, other developers in close proximity who have applied for high-rise buildings, this will give them the green light.
“That is or greatest fear in addition to the fact we don’t think we should have a Miami-style development in a small community,” she added. “We’re not opposed to development. We’re not opposed to him getting multi-family, low-rise, something that will complement the community or Nassau. We’re not opposed to that. We have an issue with high-rise buildings being approved in a small low-rise community.”
Ms McWeeney also contrasted Passion Point’s height, density and scale with that of a proposed development for the site immediately next door. Syven Beach and its developer, Leo Godet, received preliminary subdivision approval from the Ministry of Works earlier this year provided all the lots were zone for single-family residential use and the necessary building setbacks were complied with.
Two Bahamian developers, and Love Beach residents, have also voiced their opposition to Passion Point. Scott Godet, in a written statement to the Appeals Board, said: “The developer seems to feel that The Bahamas is competing with other island nations for rapid large-scale development to attract more foreign winter residents as he referred to Barbados, Turks and Caicos and a few others.
“Is that really the game we are in? He indicated that his clientele generally come to the island about two months out of the year. Are we prepared to build concrete jungles all along the north coast of Nassau to become a tax shelter version of Miami Beach and ruin the last remaining green areas of little Nassau? Is that what it’s all about?”
Questioning the project’s proposed population density, Mr Godet added: “A developer takes his chances when he purchases a property outside of the zoning of the area. If his view is that we should consider his investment and return on his investment, he is mistaken. We all made an investment in the Love Beach area, and we were made to abide by the established zoning and restrictive covenants of the area.
“A deep-pocketed developer should be no exception. Based on the developer’s comments and response to questions at the Town Hall [Appeal Board], low rise projects and Bahamians are not his target demographic. His demographic is high rise, high density, luxury, foreign, waterfront, concrete and glass, high carbon footprint, multi-million dollar price tags... We don’t want that in our backyard. Sorry.”
Meanwhile, Peter Whitehead argued that a project whose height would be equivalent to that of Paradise Island Bridge “does everything to destroy” the incentive to invest in Love Beach real estate. “The building of a structure as tall as the Nassau bridge, directly next to a collection of 9 foot wall bungalow homes, simply tells everyone: ‘There are no rules here’,” he told Appeal Board chair, Dawson Malone, in a July 28, 2023, letter.
“‘Don’t bother investing, because we will destroy your neighbourhood with no notice. And the fact that this has not been done in 100 years does not matter. That is not precedent enough’. The Government can do that, but the town, and all real estate values, will pay the price.
“There are many residential dead zones where government has allowed huge commercial-like edifices to be built. People do not invest in houses next to skyscrapers. They abandon those neighbourhoods, and take their investment elsewhere,” Mr Whitehead continued. “If you wanted to create high real estate values, you would learn from Kauai, in Hawaii, that does not allow the building of houses higher than their famous coconut trees.
“Or you would look to the highest real estate values in the world, in places like Martha’s Vineyard, where a building like this would not even stand a chance of being allowed. Those places, with the highest real estate values, would never allow this.”