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Local Government Reacts to Concerns as Ferry Saga Continues

While concerns continue to mount in Marsh Harbour over the operation of Bahamas Fast Ferries (BFF) from the Public Dock and the return traffic congestion into the township, the company has stopped working on their proposed parking lot.

Roscoe Thompson, head of the Marsh Harbour/Spring City Town Committee, and a member of the Central Abaco District Council said last week that a “stop work” order will be issued if Bahamas Ferries and its contractors placed fill on the land in preparation for tarring.

He confirmed on February 11 that the work would indeed stop until BFF submitted to going through the legal processes locally.

In a meeting called on short notice and reportedly attended by a member of BFF, Mr. Thompson said that despite objections the plans for the parking lot were approved by Town Planning.

He said that “The township will appeal the decision to council. This was done against the advice of the township and residents that submitted letters.”

Mr. Thompson also informed residents via social media prior to the Town Planning meeting on February 9 that “We met with Fast Ferries today and they will stop work on the parking lot. Right now until we meet Monday Feb 18th, they have temporary use of Union Jack.”

He said “we made it very clear that the middle of town is not an option. We meet with them again on Monday [February 18].”

The Appeal

An appeal was submitted to the Chief Councillor of the Central Abaco District Council in regards to the passing by Town Planning of the parking lot planned for the passengers of BFF.

The appeal said that “the Members of the Local Government Board for Marsh Harbour and Spring City Township… do hereby submit this letter of appeal… [which] In our opinion the plans should have been automatically deferred to Council.”

They listed multiple reasons for their objection to the proposed project.

Notably “objections were submitted to Town Planning prior to the meeting and in our view should have been reason to defer the plans for Bahamas Hot Mix to Council;”

Further the appeal noted that “Every member of the Town Planning Board had prior knowledge of the controversy surrounding the parking lot and Bahamas Fast Ferries with Passerine Limited/Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, therefore it was unjust that two members that are residents of Marsh Harbour were not allowed to take part of the process as they had the same information as any other Town Planning Board Member.”

“The notice for the plans were publicly posted for two weeks prior to going to the Board for the sole purpose of the Public having knowledge as to what is about to take place in their township, therefore Mr. Scott Thompson and Mr. Danny Sawyer would have seen this notice and also been aware of the work taking place over the past 11 days at the Bethell Estates site;”

Additionally, the appeal said that Island Administrator Maxine Duncombe should have excused herself from hearing the discussion on the plans because of the same conflict of knowledge on which Mr. Thompson and Mr. Sawyer were asked to excuse themselves from the meeting.”

“Ms. Duncombe also attended the same meeting with Bahamas Fast Ferries as did the two Town Planning Members. Abaco has two other Island Administrators and anyone of them should have been asked to attend the meeting for these particular plans;”

The appeal argued that “the Chairman of Town Planning Mr. Alfredo Cornish works for Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club and or Passerine Limited which is also a conflict by means of his employment as the current parking lot is being built to facilitate Bahamas Fast Ferries and their contract to transport employees to and from Bakers Bay, the Chairman should have excused himself from the meeting;

It was added that “notice was given to Members of Council weeks ago that there was between 25 and 30 plans that needed to be approved by Town Planning Board and due to Ms. Duncombe not agreeing to make herself available for evening meetings some of these plans [have been waiting] before the Town Planning Board since November of 2018.

“How is it that a plan posted two weeks ago is heard ahead of the outstanding plans before the Town Planning Board? In this instance we object to the approval as other residents of the Township of Marsh Harbour were disenfranchised as Bahamas Hot Mix and or Bethell Estates Parking Lot plans were brought forward for approval. The Town Planning Board has done a disservice to the Citizens of Marsh Harbour in this regard.”

Finally, the appeal noted that “The Prime Minister issued a directive to the Chairman of Marsh Harbour/Spring City Local Government Board on Friday February 9 to work with Bahamas Fast Ferries and to find a solution to the issue of using the Union Jack Dock and the constructions of the parking lot.”

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