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Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham spoke to the Real Estate Association of Abaco on the Planning and Subdivisions Act on September 13 outlining the importance policy and legislation for orderly town planning. He told the audience that Abaco is growing and developing and that environmental protections are needed as many areas of land contain protected wetlands and pine trees.

Ingraham Addresses Real Estate Association

He said, “Success in (town) planning requires an understanding of environmental issues; it requires clear policy and legislative guidance for development that balances economic needs with environmental necessities.

“This is why we need Land Use Plans and this is why we need defined processes for applications, for development, or for seeking waivers from regulations.”

Mr. Ingraham noted that the Planning and Subdivisions Act addresses the “inadequacies in our laws, regulations, and processes that impact land management and regulation of what is called the built environment.” He added that the act broadens the scope of town planning to include environmental impact assessments also requiring the public to become involved in approvals.

“Its main goal is to prevent the indiscriminate division and development of land while protecting the country’s natural and cultural heritage,” Mr. Ingraham said. “It supports the development of a culture which understands the need for long term planning – something that we, as a country, did not, historically, give a great deal of attention.”

He told realtors that the Act requires developers of subdivisions to meet minimum standards, install infrastructure, provide access to all essential utilities, preserve wetlands, and ensure that their projects do not cause unsustainable damage to the environment. “For significant developments, an environmental and traffic impact assessment may be required. And, where development is along our coastline, developers have to guarantee public access to the sea.

Further he said that the Act contains general land planning guidelines prohibiting construction in wetlands, requiring agreed setbacks and holding developers including government departments and agencies accountable for the impact of approved developments on the quality of life of citizens.

“It was our hope and expectation that this new law would help us to bring order to development and prohibit bad environmental and planning practices endured for far too long.”

Mr. Ingraham said that no matter what the countries financial situation is “I cannot say often enough that a bad development decision is bad whether we are in good or bad economic times,” he said.

Requiring minimum standards and ensuring that developments do not cause unsustainable damage to our natural resources cannot be reserved for good economic times only, he said.

“We cannot use ‘hard economic times’ as justification to approve the construction of residences in unapproved subdivisions or in subdivisions with no evidence of infrastructure installation; to build a duplex in a single family residential area as was done in Central Pines; to operate a shop out of a converted car garage or to convert a residence into an office – in an area restricted by zoning for residences only; to open a shop or a restaurant in a residential area and then introduce unauthorized loud music and outside seating; to run unauthorized and unlicensed street stalls; to hold unauthorised ‘sidewalk sales’ or to place billboards on sidewalks obstructing pedestrians and creating congestion, to operate impromptu fish, conch or crab stalls any and everywhere.

“And ‘tough times’ can’t excuse unauthorized backfilling of wetlands or excavation of hills, or informal subdivide plots of land, or building too close to a boundary line or near to the high water mark along the seashore.”

Mr. Ingraham noted that what will happen as a result of the 2010 law “remains uncertain” – particularly in the Family Islands – as “the present government will have some say in the outcome.”

He said that in order for it to be successful “the government will need to provide local government authorities with the resources to enforce the law. They will need also to ensure that public officers and local government authorities enforce both the spirit and the letter of the law.”

About Timothy Roberts

Timothy had his first venture into Journalism just months after graduating from Queen’s College in Nassau taking his first job with The Tribune in 1991 leaving in 1992 for other pursuits.

During his time in Nassau he diversified his experiences working as a warehouse manager, locksmith and computer technician before returning to Abaco, a place he has always considered home, in 1999.

He joined the staff of The Abaconian in 2001 doing graphic design and writing an opinion article called Generally Speaking and after a brief time away, returned to The Abaconian in 2010 as a reporter, graphic designer and computer technician.

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