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2002-09-04 15:22:14

Clifton Cay Controversy Building Steam

By Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

Prime Minister Perry Christie will face serious opposition from the Coalition to Save Clifton Cay if he approves a proposal by several Lyford Cay interests to develop a portion of the land into a commercial development.

The protest from the Coalition would take on a new twist because the group's leader is a PLP Senator, Rev. C. B. Moss, who was appointed by Mr. Christie.

"We are alarmed that we are talking once again about the development of that place with houses and other matters, because the will of the Bahamian people is that that place be converted into a heritage site and the Coalition will do what it can to ensure that that is observed," Rev. Moss said.

He said that the site "should be owned and controlled by Bahamians and should be converted into a National Heritage Park for the perpetual use of Bahamians and visitors."

Mr. Moss and his Coalition prides themselves with being partly responsible for thwarting efforts of U.S. investors in 1999 to develop the land on the western end of New Providence into a gated community.

Demonstrators opposing that development feared that it would mean another block of access to a public beach and the possible destruction of historical artefacts, even though the proposed developers had insisted that the development would not ban Bahamians from the beach lining the property.

A source close to Mr. Christie said the proposal now being considered by the Prime Minister would also raise issues relating to beach access for the general public.

Watching these latest developments closely, Rev. Moss yesterday reiterated that his Coalition would not accept any proposal that is not solely a plan for a national park at Clifton , the site of remains from the Whylly slave plantation.

"Unfortunately, we have not been made aware of any proposals from any source for the physical development of that site," Rev. Moss said. "We feel that as the primary advocate of the Bahamian people that the Coalition should have been informed and should have been given an opportunity to discuss with the government the future of that site."

Mr. Christie said recently that this proposal was one of three being pushed for the development of Clifton Cay.

He said that this group proposed to acquire the land, work with the government to transform a portion of it into a national park and the other portion into a commercial venture to include homes.

Mr. Christie said the group comprised mainly foreigners residing in The Bahamas.

The Coaliton members want to know more about what the government proposes to do with the land it plans to purchase from Nancy Oakes for about $20 million. Mr. Christie has said that Ms. Oakes has been the "only" victim in this whole Clifton Cay controversy. He said he wanted to wrap up the matter quickly.

Coalition members, meanwhile, appear to be growing increasingly edgy over being left out of talks surrounding the future of the site.

"We wrote the government a couple of weeks ago requesting a meeting," Rev. Moss told the Bahama Journal. "To date, we've not heard from the government."

Even though he is considering the new proposal, Mr. Christie has indicated that a national park will be a part of whatever development takes place at Clifton Cay.

In its commitment to the Bahamian people in "Our Plan," the Progressive Liberal Party government says it is, "Committed to the preservation and restoration of Clifton Cay and its promotion as a national park and World Heritage Site."

Where Mr. Christie would undoubtedly face opposition is if he gives the green light for the development, which would also include the building of more homes to serve as a "buffer" next to the exclusive gated Lyford Cay community.

The future of Clifton is today still dangling in uncertainty. Mr. Christie is also considering a proposal by a U.S. based environmental group, The Nature Conservancy, to purchase the site and use it for environmental research.

In the absence of face to face talks with the Prime Minister on Clifton Cay, Coalition members have indicated that they will remain vigilant to prevent any commercial development on any portion of the more than 500 acres of property. 

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