Wednesday, March 15, 2023
By Fay Simmons
The Bahamian entrepreneur seeking to invest $2m to restore Paradise Island’s lighthouse was yesterday invited by the Prime Minister to reapply for government approval of his project.
Philip Davis KC said he had asked Toby Smith to submit a fresh application after Chief Justice Ian Winder ruled last month that he did not have a valid and binding Crown Land lease for five acres of land that would facilitate his project in the Colonial Beach area.
“The court has ruled that he had no interest in the land and I’ve invited him to, if he is still interested, to reapply for consideration of the Government of his project and we await his application,” Mr Davis said of Mr Smith. The latter declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business yesterday, but it is thought that reapplying could undermine and cut across his prospects of appealing the Chief Justice’s ruling to the Court of Appeal.
In addition, Mr Smith’s project had been approved by the former Minnis administration and was only awaiting the Crown Land leases to proceed. Given that Royal Caribbean has reduced its Crown Land footprint from seven to four acres, and no longer appears to need the two that it was contesting with Mr Smith, it would appear a potential pathway has opened for the two investors and projects to co-exist side-by-side.
The Prime Minister also responded to concerns raised by Save the Bays activist, Joe Darville, and Atlantis president and managing director, Audrey Oswell. He suggested that Mr Darville reserve his criticism of the Government’s approval of Royal Caribbean’s $100m Paradise Island project until all the facts about the project have been presented.
He added that the cruise giant is developing its own land and is only requesting that the Government partner land with it to make the visitor experience more “palatable”. Mr Davis said: “He has to understand what the deal is like. I mean, we ought to speak when we know all the facts. I will not be presiding over a decision that leads to the consequences that he’s suggesting.
“What he has to appreciate is that Royal Caribbean, they already own several acres of land here. They’re developing their own land. And they’re asking for us to partner with them with our land to make the experience for visitors more palatable. And in that partnering, the people in The Bahamas will not be left out.”
Mr Davis also addressed Ms Oswell’s concerns about the economic and environmental repercussions of the Royal Caribbean development. He said: “Her concerns are legitimate concerns, and I think they may have been ahead of themselves in the sense that those concerns all will be taken into account when the final decisions are made in respect to what the development looks like.
“They still have to go through the environmental process to determine what is environmentally friendly. That’s not my call; that is the Department of the Environmental Planning and Protection Agency. They will look at what is there and they will tell us about the environmental impact that the development has, and they will decide whether it will go on in that in the form or fashion.
He added: “In respect to the other issues she raised, we are all concerned about those issues and until those are addressed properly, the project will… and this is what was communicated to them, they are speaking as though the decision has been made without these concerns, being taken into account.”
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