A proposed $170 million residential and hotel property project slated for Torch Cay in southern Exuma is projected to provide a significant boost to the economy and the employment situation of the Exuma chain and Little Exuma in particular, creating hundreds of jobs during construction and beyond, according to an environmental impact assessment (EIA) commissioned by the developer, PMR Bahamas.
Torch Cay, also known as Hog Cay, is a privately-owned, 707-acre island situated “at the southernmost point of the Exuma island chain”, approximately 19 miles east-southeast of George Town, Exuma, according to the project’s EIA.
“The proposed development by PMR Bahamas is a mixed-use luxury resort and residential development complete with an 18-hole golf course, 81-slip marina and channel, 161 residential lots, 40 hotel keys resort, marina village, and runway with an International Civil Aviation Organization designation,” said the EIA, prepared by Waypoint Consulting Limited.
“Amenities include the creation of new beaches and expansion/improvement of existing beaches, overwater bungalows, agricultural and husbandry area (farms), equestrian facilities, golf clubhouse, spa and sports pavilion, and natural areas.
“Back-of-house operations will provide solid waste management, electricity, potable water, and sewerage facilities. Guests and visitors will arrive at designated and secure locations.”
The capital investment in the project is expected to cost at least US$170 million, and will create to 375 to 425 jobs during its planned eight- to 12-year buildout, with 250 to 300 jobs expected during operation.
“While the population of Exuma and its cays nearly doubled between the 2000 and 2010 census to just below 7,000, Little Exuma does not exhibit this growth and will benefit directly from its proximity to Torch Cay,” the EIA said.
“Employees who live on Exuma will be able to travel to the cay for daily operations via provided busing and transportation along Queen’s Highway.
“The community of Little Exuma will benefit directly from community outreach programs, which may include adoption of the Williams Town School, a cultural village at Forbes Hill, and additional educational support and training to the residents of Exuma.”
The EIA continued, “The 161 single-family home lots have been chosen to take advantage of the myriad seascapes and vantage points offered by Torch Cay’s ridgelines, with elevations reaching more than 85 feet.
“Townhomes, condos, bungalows, and staff housing accommodations provide an additional 196 units.
“A resort located at the highest point, the Ocean Ridge Resort, will feature a maximum of 40 ocean-view hotel keys. Additional resort features include food and beverage outlets, a world-class spa, fitness center, pools, and watersports… and associated sporting facilities, including tennis court and pavilion, pickle ball courts and volleyball courts…”
While the island has been labelled Hog Cay for generations, the name “Torch Cay” derives from the Amyris elemifera tree, “commonly referred to as White Torch, and found amongst the upland vegetation”, the EIA said.
The EIA said while the impact was expected to be minimal given that the land has already had significant human development, though not in the modern era, the dredging for the marina, the development of the golf course and the improvement of beaches will alter a significant part of the existing habitat.
“Terrestrial impacts associated with upland development pertain primarily to loss of habitat. Proposed development features will result in an unavoidable loss of habitat for the golf course, farm areas, building footprints including the hotel and marina residences, other green space amenities, back-of-house, and road corridors,” the EIA said.
“Approximately 250 acres of upland habitat will be impacted due to clearing for these components.”