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 Bahamas Commentary

2006-02-01 17:52:32

The 'Obscenity' of The Ramp

Prime Minister Perry Christie's promise to re-examine the Valentine's Yacht Club development in Harbour Island has so far turned out to be a pipe dream or a pie in the sky.

This is the second time that Prime Minister Christie had promised to "re-examine" this development. Due to its tremendous dimensions and disproportionate size in the Harbour Island landscape, Prime Minister Christie has referred to this mismatch as "an obscenity" and "that this project could not have been approved in its current state!"

Well blow me down and please tell me that the cow jumped over the moon! How on earth could the Leader of the Bahamas make such a statement? Is he expressing or implying that the institutions such as Local Government and the Ministry of Works, who are responsible for regulating and approving ALL construction in the Bahamas, are asleep at the wheel? Somehow and by whatever means, is it being suggested that the principals at Valentine's were able to proceed with their project completely unchecked and without the requisite approvals to proceed?

I am also aware of the difficulty and frustration to acquire the necessary approvals to construct certain structures on Harbour Island. A couple of years ago, much was said when "Mr Dickie", an elderly philanthropist and a true friend of Harbour Island wanted to construct a small dock for his yacht with a special handicap ramp. He was challenged to the limit by persons voicing strong opposition to such a construction.

On a personal note, I know first hand the trials and tribulations of my sister Juanita with the construction of her house. Merely adding a "sundeck" on the roof of a two-storey building, a minor deviation from the original plans, took months if not years of lobbying and determination before satisfactory approval was given by authorities. The bottom line, Prime Minister Christie, is that at Harbour Island any alteration to an existing plan, especially one on this magnitude, I presume should have been brought to your attention.

With regards to the Valentine's Yacht Club development, it seems to me that Prime Minister Christie appears to be in a state of confusion. The reason for this is the fact that Valentine's is really two separate issues.

Yes, one issue is the massive development of Valentine's and its impact on an already overcrowded island. The second issue deals with a small area of public land approximately 100ft x 80ft directly across the street in front of Valentine's. This issue is much more urgent and requires the immediate attention of Prime Minister Christie. In fact, a number of persons are referring to the situation with the Ramp as an "obscenity".

For generations, "The Ramp" as this piece of land is called has been the only access for landing/launching boats efficiently. A number of fishermen, ferryboat operators and other persons with water related businesses have used the Ramp for decades. Suddenly and virtually overnight without notice, they are being displaced with nowhere else to go. On one side of The Ramp, 40ft was given to Valentine's for a parking lot. On the other side, 30ft was given to a local businesswoman who is constructing a two-storey store. This leaves just a few feet in between for the boating community to conduct their business such as repairs, storage, landings and launchings.

Under the circumstances, this is a completely senseless and impractical task. This is grossly unfair and it seems to me to be in direct contradiction with Prime Minister Christie's government that promised to always look out for the small man in the Bahamas.

A part of the crisis at The Ramp seems to be the direct result of what seems to be the attitude of Local Government Minister, Alfred Gray. I understand that without a public hearing so that all persons affected could have an opportunity to present their case, Mr Gray over-ruled the elected Local Government's decision not to allow a major building construction on The Ramp. They would have permitted a vendor stall. In addition, construction is being done without approval of the Local Government Council.

In the dicta by Chief Justice Dame Joan Sawyer in the Guana Cay case, could this possibly be considered illegal and perhaps nullify any Central Government approvals as the proper procedure is to have the application go to the Local Council beofre a permit to build is issued.

Furthermore, it appears thatMr Gray and Prime Minister Christie's government has made no effort to seek any kind of facility that will accommodate, these displaced boatmen. There has been talk of constructing another facility but so far it has been just that. Why spend millions of dollars to build a new facility when we had one that was working perfectly for well over one hundred years? Byleasing the Ramp to Valentine's and Ms Rosey Roberts, the Bahamas in terms of remuneration has very little to gain. I think that in this respect the government of Prime Minister Christie has demonstrated a lack of vision and foresight. As a result hardship and difficulties will be brought upon, Bahamians.

Just the other day, a fisher man needed to land his boat for repairs. Without access to the.  traditional facility, he had to wait for high tide. He landed the boat on the beach under the fig tree in front of the Harbour Lounge. With no place to tie the boat up for stability, he ended up with a rope around a monument near the fig tree. Because of the ebb and flow of the tide, he could only work at low tide.

This is pure insanity! With the next hurricane season being  just months away, one can just predict the chaos at The Ramp when dozens of persons have to land their boats at the same time! Let's pray that the hurricane comes at high tide so that the boatmen will be able to get their boats out of the water.

The perception on Harbour Island is that some of the affected persons feel that they have been let down by Prime Minister Christie's government in their time of need, they were abandoned and left to feud for themselves.

It appears on Harbour Island that if you are rich. white and a foreigner, the government will listen to you. Just last year when a much-needed shower and toilet facility was being constructed on the Pink Sands Beach, it was challenged by the Pink Sands Hotel. Construction that was well on the way was immediately halted pending the outcome of a decision of an objective third party, notably the Courts.

This is what should have happened at the Ramp. But, without the hefty fees to pay a lawyer, these boatmen are literally up the creek without a paddle!


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