The Hope Town District Council met on December 9 with six Council members present. They were able to go through their agenda quickly.
A new item was the adoption of “The Rules of Procedure and Ordinances,” a manual that will be in effect for the Hope Town District Council.
One procedural item is their reserving an initial 30 minutes for a private session to bring everyone up to date on issues to be discussed. As they debate and resolve issues pertaining to three separate and distant island communities, Hope Town, Man-O-War and Guana Cay, issues are occasionally brought up which some Council members may not be knowledgeable about. Henceforth, meetings will be open to the press and public after this initial period.
Other procedural rules include the following:
• Persons wishing to address the Council must register with the secretary 48 hours prior to a meeting.
• Cell phones must be either off or set to silent. If the phone is answered, the person must excuse himself and go outside.
• Incoming phone calls to the Council office are not answered during Council meetings.
• Informal study sessions may be held when background information is needed for pending Council business. A quorum is not required and no official decisions can be made.
Fifteen ordinances are presently in effect and relate to moratoriums on self-drive plates, moorings, pit bull dogs on Elbow Cay and the ban on burning garbage or refuse within the district. Other ordinances include a building setback distance of 20 feet from a public road, a 15-foot setback from neighbouring property, a 40-foot setback from beach dunes, a deck setback of 10 feet minimum from neighbouring property, buildings not to exceed 35 feet in elevation, fences and walls to be 18 inches or more off public roads, fences six feet or more high must be 24 inches or more off a public road and docks must be at least 15 feet away from neighbouring property.
Note that this is a short summary and interested persons should review the actual ordinances.
Clay Wilhoyte was recognized by the Council as a dedicated business person who has assisted with many projects on Elbow Cay. He was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting. His services as a member of the Board of Works precedes the establishment of Local Government in 1996. He served in the initial term of Local Government and assisted as a member of the Town Planning Committee for Central Abaco. He is an active member of the Hope Town Volunteer Fire and Rescue and has actively assisted firemen in Man-O-War and Marsh Harbour.
Mr. Wilhoyte is the treasurer of the Hope Town Community Association and was instrumental in transforming the Elbow Cay refuse collection site into an exemplary model.
The Administrator was asked how the new VAT scheme will impact those holding government contracts. He did not have an answer at this time but it is being looked into.
An unresolved issue on Man-O-War concerns the cell tower that BTC wants to construct on that cay and has Council approval for. It is to be located at the dump site. However, the construction footprint now is much larger than originally approved. It was noted that any installation by BTC (or others) at the dump site must not interfere with the site’s primary purpose of facilitating refuse disposal for the island. A site inspection will be made.
By prior arrangement, six residents attended the meeting at 11 am. Apparently a small development on the beach about a mile south of town was causing problems among neighbours. After much discussion, questions asked, answers given, documents presented, and an apology made over an outburst in anger, it was mutually agreed that the project could proceed on receipt of approval from Town Planning in Nassau. The property owner was confident this would be forthcoming.
Both Administrator Preston Cunningham and Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting were dismayed at the many instances of persons avoiding or bypassing rules, by indifference as seen by residents, both native and foreign, and equally by government agencies overlooking their areas of responsibility. Both asked for more interplay between residents and government to ensure compliance with building codes, regulations, licenses and other issues where initial disclosure of intentions would pave the way for smoother end results.
The meeting ended with Council members enjoying a Christmas luncheon together at the Abaco Inn.