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2004-02-26 17:18:31

Sandyport Developer Details Actions

While releasing documents on his development to reporters Wednesday, Sandyport owner Hugh Buckner said that he has never received any correspondence relating to the environmental matters now being raised.

"Sandyport is an ecological success," declared Mr. Buckner, in direct contradiction to what government officials have documented in recent months. "We have changed a poor low productivity swamp into a super wet land with marine life, aquatic and bird, growing and expanding every year."

His disclosure came nearly a week after the Bahama Journal revealed that government documents pointed to widespread environmental degradation at Sandyport, including destruction of 98 percent of the wetlands.

Wednesday's press conference was also apparently triggered by claims made in recent weeks by the Coalition To Save Clifton Cay which has been pointing to the environmental abuse it says the development has caused.

The government documents also said that no environmental impact assessment was completed prior to the start of the development, but Mr. Buckner, who had maintained all along that an EIA had been completed, released the study to reporters Wednesday.

The EIA, prepared by Space International, said that, "The development will upgrade the area, transforming it from a smelly, mosquito-infested swamp to a stable, cohesive element, fostering social interaction at its Mixed Use Core, and thereby creating a sense of community to the entire area."

It also added that the conceptual elements of the Sandyport Master Plan provide for adequate safety, accessibility, proximity, privacy, visibility, security and natural amenities in the functioning of a self-contained neighbourhood for 4,000 people.

The Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission recently said in a report that most of the wetlands have been destroyed. This is in contrast to the 142 acres of mangrove swampland that existed in the 1970s.

The EIA also said that on the other side of West Bay Street, across from the development, is 1.2 acres of beautiful beachfront belonging to the site.

"This beach, the pond and its surrounding natural vegetation along with a belt of natural vegetation around the site are all to be preserved," the EIA said.

Mr. Buckner said Wednesday that, "Sandyport has obtained full and proper approvals including a voted resolution of parliament, it has fully invested its money, it has bank loans to repay under legal agreements, it has many long serving employees."

He added, "Let me state categorically that Sandyport has never acted illegally or in contravention of any permit. We have always sought the necessary approvals and have never acted without receiving them."

Mr. Buckner said that a senior government minister has in the last three days contacted Sandyport, stating that the source of the information given to the press was being looked into. He said that the call was to let Sandyport know that the government had no difficulty with the Sandyport project.

"Neither [BEST Commission Chairman] Mr. Keod Smith nor [Coalition To Save Clifton Cay Chairman] Rev. C. B. Moss have given Sandyport any of the information they have sent to the press nor have they asked Sandyport for any information," said a statement released by Mr. Buckner entitled "Sandyport: Some Facts For A Change."

"For government officials this is shocking," the statement said.

It notes that 3,000 to 4,000 Bahamians depend on Sandyport for a living.

The statement also said that persons who use words such as "destroyed" or "degraded" or say "all waterfowl habitat in the area will be lost" are not telling the truth, the statement adds.

In addition, the statement said that Sandyport has not caused flooding anywhere as has been erroneously reported in the newspapers.

The government document quoted in the Journal last week said, "The bulkheading of the marina areas to the east of the property may have profound flooding implications for the residents of Skyline Drive subdivision and Gambier as it may prevent the natural underground water flow during heavy rains and hurricanes. It should be noted that Sandyport wetlands were the natural exist for large volumes of water to the sea prior to the construction of the Sandyport development."

Mr. Buckner's statement, meanwhile, also said that no solid waste is handled improperly at Sandyport.

"The Department of the Environment has reported themselves to have no issue with Sandyport," it said.

The statement also went on to outline the various approvals the government has granted Sandyport since 1978.

The Bahama Journal 

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