The Hope Town District Council met on March 18 with several interesting items on its agenda. One item was the approval of the installation of a camera on the second story of the post office with a view of the public dock and the gate blocking traffic through town. Although the gate restricts traffic which by law is prohibited beyond the Methodist Church, there are 250 keys to the gate allowing vehicle access.
Central government is drafting revised road traffic laws while understanding that various islands have their own unique challenges to be considered. The Hope Town Council has prepared its own traffic regulations which the Local Government Act allows and encourages. However, there is little information on how this is legally accomplished.
One of the traffic proposals that the Council is considering is excluding motorcycles as they are often excessively noisy and often speeding through town. It was strongly suggested by letters and persons present at this meeting that motorcycles should be allowed as they take less space on the narrow roads and in the few available parking spaces. They can be driven safely while allowing pedestrian traffic to share the road. It was recommended that efforts be directed to curtail the few offenders on motorbikes.
Another regulation related to prohibiting truck traffic mid-day by allowing these vehicles access only in the morning or afternoon hours.
The possibility of installing an electronically controlled gate is also being considered. To restrict passage to those allowed, a fingerprint scanner might stop the practice where gate keys are given to others, giving access to the town roads by those not specifically authorized by the Council. Also considered is a toll option where each passage would charge the user a toll similar to toll roads in other locations.
Various options are being investigated.
Lax enforcement of existing rules and regulations was cited as a major detriment to Hope Town’s traffic problems. It was noted that as many as one-fourth of the vehicles parked at Sunshine Park in front of the Hope Town Lodge have expired licenses. It was also brought out that many vehicles parked along the roadside between the post office and the school are unlicensed, derelict or have remained there for many months, denying parking space for residents with legitimate town business.
Following the lead of the Central Abaco District Council concerning removal of derelict vehicles in Marsh Harbour, efforts will be made to have these vehicles taken to the dump for disposal.
In view of these proposed regulations a public meeting was suggested to fine tune the proposed traffic scheme.
Complaints about garbage and trash being openly burned brought many suggestions. For instance, it is impractical for residents on Lubbers Quarters and other cays to take yard trash in their boat to a refuse site on Elbow Cay. Acknowledging this, consideration is underway to allow this burning with conditions related to wind, neighbours, rain, nature of the material being burned, etc. It might require notifying the local fire department so plumes of smoke on the horizon are not viewed as alarming.
Renovations are underway to establish the Council’s property tax collection office. It is hoped that this office can be put into service by May. The prospect of collecting property taxes, both delinquent and new, with a small percentage returned annually to the Hope Town District has several other district councils investigating ways to share in this unknown bounty. However, Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting is adamant that his Council’s efforts over the past five years in this change beneficial to his district is not in any danger.
A resolution to restrict seawall construction was deferred because of concerns that the proposed language might have been too restrictive concerning unknown future issues that Mother Nature might impose. Council members are aware that beaches come and go with storms, seasons, currents and other factors. It is well known that single efforts by property owners to preserve their waterfront with walls, groynes, jetties, gabions and other measures often cause massive changes to neighbouring waterfront properties. It was said that waterfront property owners, particularly those fronting the ocean, must learn to live with Mother Nature and not attempt to change her ways. The resolution was not defeated but will be studied for appropriate language.
The Hope Town District Council has three seats vacant due to resignations. Efforts are underway with central government to fill these seats with a by-election. It is believed that this may be combined with an upcoming national referendum on equality issues as there are other local government districts with vacant seats.
On adjourning, council members agreed to travel to Lynyard Cay to investigate an illegal sign on the beach declaring that it was private.
Statistics given in last month’s meeting included financial information that is generated within the Hope Town Council District:
In fiscal year 2013-2014, 94 building permits were issued with permit fees totaling $55,997 and construction costs estimated to be $61,732,290.
Additionally, 21 dock permits were issued with permit fees totaling $1,535 and construction costs estimated to be $307,300.
In fiscal year 2014-2015, 84 building permits were issued with permit fees totaling $59,010 and construction costs estimated to be $54,045,463.
Additionally 29 dock permits were issued with permit fees totaling $2,507 and construction costs estimated to be $631,465.
It was noted that future values such as these will be the basis for the Hope Town District Council receiving an annual return from the Treasury resulting from the property tax on capital improvements separate from its recurrent budget.