During their regular monthly meeting on September 29 the Hope Town District Council approved over $14 million in plans while expressing concerns that new regulations by the Hotel Licensing Authority could dampen prospects for Real Property Tax collection on the cays.
A notice was shared during the meeting that read: Effective immediately the Ministry of Tourism (Hotel Licensing Dept.) will commence mandatory registration for all vacation rental homes. Homeowners presently registered are requested to update their information with the Hotel Licensing Department. Registration deadline is September 30, 2016.
Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting expressed concern that the registration with the Ministry of Tourism would give the rentals exemption from paying Real Property Tax, especially in light of the money they had just spent to set up an office to collect the tax.
There were also concerns that persons would simply avoid registering their homes and Bahamian property management businesses would lose out as the property owners would be required to get approval from the Bahamas Investment and have a business license in order to pay VAT.
Senior Island Administrator Charles Moss said he is not aware of any exemption from Real Property Tax for registering, and the Council was encouraged to get more information concerning the new registration.
Mr. Moss noted that the Council will need to finalize the appointment of new members by December. Over the last year two members have stepped down leaving vacancies unfilled.
A notice indicated that there will be a meeting on October 3 at the airport concerning possible runway extension and the facilitating of pre-clearance (the meeting was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew).
The Council was reminded that the Department of Immigration would begin their exercises beginning November 1, checking businesses in Central Abaco and the Cays to ensure any foreign workers are properly documented.
The committee discussed finalizing plans for the Celebratory Banquet they will hold October 22 at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge as they commemorate 20 years of local government in the Bahamas.
They reviewed and granted an extension to the approval in principal for Cracker P’s proposed 18 villas on Lubber’s Quarters. Approvals not acted on must be resubmitted after a year.
There were some concerns and recommendations which the Council will communicate to Hope Town Inn and Marina regarding plans for expansion which include a marina and additional hotel villas/rooms on the Sea of Abaco side of their property.
The Council said they will proceed with a recommendation stage after which they will meet with Hope Town Inn and Marina. They will then take the plans to a town meeting after which they will base their on the changes and input from the town.