On March 22 a resolution to transfer more than 460 acres of land in Moore’s Island was tabled by Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Mr. Christie said it was a matter of “extreme importance,” and that the move will guarantee that residents of Moore’s Island now have the title to 464.4 acres of land they now occupy.
However, at least some portion of the property which is proposed to be transferred from the Bahamas Treasury to the Ministry of Housing appears to privately owned, and already has clear title.
Speaking to the Deputy Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis, he said the government “in adopted the approach that we did, our empirical evidence supports that the residences in the settlement of the Bight and Hard Bargain were on land that the title to which was questionable and thus not marketable (not able to be used as collateral).”
He said that because of the resolution the residents will now be able to have good and marketable title to their property.
He added that if “anyone who claims to have ownership to any of the land acquired, the law sets out a process of compensation premised on their producing title that is good and marketable.”
Mr. Davis said as an aside that the fact that a person has “deeds” to property does not necessarily translate to marketable title.
Questions arose as an old survey map showing original grants of property over a hundred years ago indicated that all property in Moore’s Island had been granted to individuals leaving no government owned (or Crown Land) properties on the island.
Over the years as individuals built or squatted on properties across the island clear titles have become difficult to come by as much of the land is disputed. However, the portion of land sitting between Hard Bargain and The Bight which was originally granted to Richardson and John Saunders has a clear succession of title to William Edwards.
There is a conveyance to Mr. William D. Edwards and his brother Dr. Jefferson Edwards in 1959 who would later sell the majority of their property to local Bahamians, with a portion also donated to the Catholic Church. According to one source as many as 58 Bahamians have property with clear title in the proposed area.
It appears that a significant portion of the 464.4 acres belongs to local Moore’s Islanders who have clear title. In fact, those persons are among the only people able to get a mortgage or loan on their property’s title due to the fact of clear succession of ownership titles over the years.