Nassau, The Bahamas – Rapid urbanisation and the expansion of unregulated business activities are over-commercialising residential neighbourhoods. The growing practice threatens to depreciate the safety and stagnate the value of residential property, while they are transformed into industrialised areas.
“The Planning and Subdivision Act came into force on January 1, 2011 and The Forestry Act January 4, 2011. As well, the Bahamas National Trust Amendment Act was also passed and is now law,” said Environment Minister, Earl Deveaux.
“The Planning and Subdivision Act, in particular, will be the primary means whereby the built environment of The Bahamas will be ordered and regulated.”
The 2010 Planning and Subdivision Act, Forestry Act, and new amendments to the Bahamas National Trust Act established order to the chaos created by numerous unaddressed business infractions.
By strengthening the consequences for violating the zoning protocols, the Government expects to reverse the current trends that are lowering the standards in the inner city environment.
“Several regulations have been promulgated. The Department of Physical Planning regulations, the Town Planning Committee rules, the Planning and Subdivision Application requirements, Planning and Subdivision public notices, and the Subdivision Development Appeal Board rules,” said Dr. Deveaux.
Effective January 1, 2011, the Bahamas Government attempts to resolve constituent complaints by taking action within various public agencies to enforce the new laws in the densely populated residential areas of central New Providence.
“There are a lot of infractions, particularly with regard to unregulated business activities or encroachments in traditional neighbourhoods. For example, the Mario’s digital sign is an illegal sign and they have been given a notice to take it down within 14 days. There are a number of them on Shirley Street and Prince Charles Drive and things like that intrude on a neighbourhood and creep into a community if you don’t enforce them,” said Dr. Deveaux.
Homeowners occupying single-family homes must obtain proper business licensing and home renovation permits from Government in order to alter their homes for commercial purposes.
“If there is an obvious infraction of a zoning regulation, between the Department of Physical Planning, Environmental Health, and the Building Control Division, we will be able to determine exactly which agency is best capable of dealing with it”, said Dr. Deveaux.
“Say you have a garage creeping up or someone has converted a residence into a business that’s inappropriate for the area, the first process would be to identify it and issue a stop order and prosecute the person. We are trying to arm the departments to take these matters to the environmental court and prosecute them themselves.”
Bahamian residents have been unable to manage the high security and crime watch demands in their neighbourhoods, as unmonitored patterns of traffic moving through private subdivisions have invited opportunities for an increase of criminal activity.
“The island of New Providence has been catalogued into 22 planning districts and the districts broken into zones to accommodate development.
The major zones are residential, which has five subcategories, commercial, which has three subcategories, institutional, which has three subcategories, and industrial, also with three subcategories. As well as, agricultural and green space, which essentially accommodates the forests,” said Dr. Deveaux.
“We are here to highlight the various Acts, the regulations and to underscore their importance to our country’s continued growth and development. Together the Acts seek to protect the natural environment of The Bahamas and to set out the process of approval, licensing, permitting for development, and mitigation of impact. The Acts prescribed are a process of regulation, public notice, consultation, which are all important to community building and shared responsibility.”
External cultural influences have compromised the traditional Bahamian shared values with the impact of cultural diversity. The Act addresses the regulation of roadside vendors from conducting business transactions without a proper permit.
“Roadside garages are increasingly evident. Small businesses, hairdressing businesses, printing businesses migrate into small convenience stores, and water sales. With the Business License Act that was recently passed and the Planning and Subdivisions Act, you’ll have two means of dealing with it. Anyone operating a business on the road will have to get a certificate from the landlord to show they have permission to operate a business from there,” said Dr. Deveaux.
The new laws are the Government’s response to decrease the flow of high volume commercial traffic into these zoned subdivisions and resolve the overcrowding issue in central New Providence. Law enforcement of the new Act will reduce the intensity of land use and residual criminal activity that is emerging from residential areas transforming into business districts.
By: Gena Gibbs
BAHAMAS INFORMATION SERVICES