Seeking to fulfill their obligation to hold public consultation The Abaco Club at Winding Bay held a meeting in Cherokee on June 27 along with officials from government agencies to present their final plans and address any issues, concerns or questions raised by the public.
Dawson Malone, lawyer from Callenders & Co. representing Responsible Development for Abaco (RDA), stated for the record that the meeting was not being accepted as a proper consultative process as recognized in law.
He said “the consultation notice did not say who was holding it, did not indicate what decision makers were to be present. The point of a consultation process is to give the materials in advance in order to make informed representation; it is not a matter of showing up, hearing information and responding.”
Mr. Malone also noted that there are extant court proceedings which challenge the consultation process.
Tom Southworth, Vice President of Development addressed the audience made up of residents from the nearby communities of Cherokee, Yellow Wood and Little Harbour as well as persons from Casuarina, Bahama Palm Shores and other from the Central Abaco area.
He told the audience that the site plan, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and two other letters were posted to the Bahama Environment Science and Technology (BEST) Commission’s website in anticipation of the meeting.
“Given the 18 month timeline on this project and lots of new feedback and information we have received and in consideration of the fact that we have acquired additional property in Little Harbour, many of our plans have evolved,” Mr. Southworth stated.
“We have worked alongside BEST over the past several months to refine the plans and made some changes based on local feedback. Every step in the process from our initial meeting in January 2015 to December last year and today we have presented you with our then current thinking and sought your opinions.”
He indicated that a previous meeting held in September 2015 came together last minute; “so last minute that on the day of the meeting we were told we were not presenting so we did not have all the appropriate personnel or adequate preparation to address all the concerns that were raised.”
Mr. Southworth detailed that they are committed to a hybrid of solar and generator based power; that they will use rainwater and if necessary it will be supplemented by water trucked to the Little Harbour facility from the Abaco Club’s Winding Bay site. He also noted that they will be using a below ground holding tank for waste disposal at the site and have it trucked to the Club’s site for treatment.
He said the Marina would eventually employ about ten persons; however, sales generated as a result of the Marina at the Abaco Club would potentially lead to the employment of 1000 construction jobs and the creation of more long term jobs in the future.
They will also seek to be a Blue Flag Marina (a certification with stringent environmental, educational, safety-related criteria) and to maintain that certification.
Residents of the area expressed concerns over a number of issues. One issue of concern was lighting at the marina as the area, which is off the power grid, is in darkness at night. The Abaco Club said they will not be lighting up the facility with flood lights but will use low intensity photo voltaic lights to light the dock and pathways.
Another concern was noise pollution from the generator, which the Club said would be a sound-attenuated generator minimizing the amount of noise in the community.
It was also noted that about six moorings presently in the harbour would be affected and that the Port Department would seek to identify the owners and negotiate relocation.
The general consensus among Little Harbour residents is that the Marina would fundamentally change the environment of their community and regardless of mitigating measures they prefer that their community remain unchanged.