The meeting had a programmed interruption when they moved to St. James Methodist Church for a public session concerning the paving of the North End road. The public session lasted about an hour and a half without any firm conclusion.
Twelve persons had asked to address the Council related to an announced contract to pave the dirt and gravel road north of Hope Town. Moving to the neighbouring church gave room for about 50 persons to hear the presentations. Administrator Charles Moss, Works Engineer William Krezel and Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting made remarks and answered questions.
Without dissent, it was obvious that the road needs repairs although government’s recent announcement that it would be paved in its entirety caught the residents and Council members off-guard.
The Councilors were initially pleased with this news as the repairs on the single lane road have cost many thousands of dollars over the years, and it was thought it would be a welcome improvement by the residents of that area of Elbow Cay.
However, paving was not unanimously welcomed. The one-lane dirt road has a slow-paced charm with hedges, flowers and trees on the roadside which paving equipment would tear apart, damaging root systems and removing some privacy hedges. The present road has natural speed-limiting qualities desirable on the many sharp corners and as a safety measure for pedestrians whereas pavement tends to attract faster traffic and motorcycles.
Questions were raised about future maintenance to pavement with local examples given of deteriorated paved roads with no attempt to make repairs.
The one-lane road is lightly traveled and is sufficiently wide for service vehicles but some felt that pavement would attract more traffic and might even encourage someone to establish a hotel or bar on that end of the island which would not be welcome.
Although Council has often asked for funding to make road repairs, they had no advance knowledge of a contract being signed for asphalt paving. The Councillors listened to residents and property owners and promised to look into the options.
Before and after the public session, The Councillors attended to normal agenda items in the Council office.
One item on the agenda was the reading a Memorandum of Understanding concerning Council’s new role in collecting property tax, submitting payments to Nassau and the subsequently have between three to ten percent returned to the Hope Town District for capital improvements within that district.
The Council will not benefit from any revenue that it collects from current taxpayers, only on tax payments on new construction, payments from delinquent taxpayers or payments on properties previously not appearing on the tax register. The annual refunds will net the Council 10 percent on new construction in the initial year that the tax is paid and that amount will be reduced to five percent in the second and third years. More details are to be worked out, but it is thought that the system may be put in place this spring or early summer. All property tax revenue that the Council collects will be sent to the Treasury in Nassau with the Council’s share returned annually. This money can be used only for capital projects, not recurrent expenditures.
Tenders are out to renovate a separate office to manage this tax process and the Council is hoping that work will begin soon.
The Councillors passed a resolution to investigate and consider restricting vehicle size and type allowed in Hope Town’s heritage business district north of the gate. This is within Council’s authority as it is stated in the Local Government Act that the Councils are to manage traffic within their districts. It is expected to be voted on by Council members in their March meeting.
A property owner attended the meeting to answer questions that might arise on his re-submission of a building permit requesting a deviation on set-back from the dune. The amended application was accepted without comment. However, the property owner felt that the issue of dune erosion and subsequent efforts by affected property owners to construct protective seawalls was counter-productive in the long run. He noted that beaches come and go with seasons and storms, but seawalls and other beach construction alter Mother Nature’s scheme and often cause serious coastal damage in future years.
Routine port business included passing coastal and dock construction permits valued at $605,000. Construction permits issued by Town Planning were slightly over $5 million in value. Additionally, a residential permit deferred last month was approved this month for $2.9 million after corrections were made to the plans.