Harbour Island project confronts major opponents

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Harbour Island developer and its opponents confronted each other at a sometimes-tense planning meeting where it was revealed a project contractor was working 70 feet beyond the permitted area.

David Hayes, 4M Harbour Island's senior vice-president, admitted Bahamas Marine Construction had been working outside the area allowed under the approvals received to-date when questioned by rival Harbour Island hotelier, Ben Simmons.

Mr Simmons, a member of Br-Island Responsible Development Association (BIRD), the group that has launched two Judicial Review challenges to the permits issued to 4M and its developer, Michael Wiener, had challenged whether the rock revetment being constructed to stabilise the shoreline was shown on environmental and planning documents.

Mr Hayes, acknowledging that it was not shown, said: "The original permitted rock revetment area shown earlier on both the consultation and as being constructed was fully permitted. At this point in time we have not yet - and I use the word yet because we feel that it's an improvement to the shoreline - sought permits to add the add the rock revetment area taking additional shoreline.

"Now we all know the contractor working on-site exceeded the limits..." Mr Simmons, though, replied: "That's news to me", which brought an icy response from Mr Hayes, who accused him and BIRD of suggesting that Bahamas Marine Construction had mistakenly gone 200 feet - rather than 70 feet - beyond the permitted area.

"Be that as it may," the 4M executive said in response to Mr Simmons, "the contractor exceeded what was permitted; certainly nothing had been authorised. It was purported by you to be 200 feet. That's incorrect. It was by 70 feet. We do intend to seek environmental approval to continue the rock revetment along the original shoreline. We have not done that yet."

The meeting was held to discuss 4M's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the near-20 acre second phase expansion of its property, which includes mainly its real estate component.

There was also an icy exchange between attorneys when Gail Lockhart-Charles, BIRD's legal representative, and Ryan Pinder, the former Cabinet minister and Graham, Thompson & Company partner acting for 4M, addressed the developer's bid to lease a further 4.85 acres of seabed to facilitate construction of a floating dock for 45-foot vessels.

And Wanda Higgs, a Harbour Island councillor who insisted she was speaking as a resident and mother, blasted BIRD and Mr Simmons for their opposition to the 4M project whose principal is Michael Wiener.

Arguing that it was hypocritical for Mr Simmons to raise concerns about 4M's beach use, when he and his resort "profit" from using if for weddings for their guests, she said: "Everybody needs to work. Why are we still dwelling on this?... You talk about the beach? You use the beach all the time for your profit...."