Lighthouse Point Partners (LPP) yesterday expressed disappointment with the government’s decision to approve Disney Cruise Lines’ proposed $400 million cruise port development for Lighthouse Point in South Eleuthera, saying the Minnis administration “capitulated to the demands” of Disney instead of pursuing its own sustainable proposal.
“Unlike the sustainable proposal of the Lighthouse Point Partners, the government in this decision is perpetuating a failed model with limited spend by cruise passengers on the island of Eleuthera, compared to stayover visitors, with no chance of Bahamian ownership of the core enterprise,” the group said.
The Cabinet Office said the government took into consideration the views of the majority of the people in Eleuthera and is satisfied that it made the best decision in the interest of Bahamians, the sustainable future for the people of the island and its economy.
The Cabinet Office acknowledged the matter has been heavily debated, but pointed out that the land in question for the proposed development is privately owned and that Disney has a sales agreement with the land owner to purchase the land.
While opponents to Disney’s development have expressed concern about the project potentially destroying the environment, stripping locals of access to beaches and public spaces and not stimulating the local economy, the Cabinet Office contended that Disney is committed to low density development and sustainable design, public access and restoration of various historical and cultural sites.
It also said Disney will also convey approximately 190 acres of the land purchased to the government for conservation and a national park.
The development will create approximately 150 jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, according to the government.
Lighthouse Point Partners yesterday expressed doubt that the Disney project would have the reported economic impact.
“Whereas our proposal would have created jobs immediately upon the acquisition of the property, Disney’s proposal will not have any meaningful impact on the employment of persons in South Eleuthera until at least 2023. Even on the construction of Disney’s quarter of a billion-dollar pier, there is every indication those funds will be spent with a U.S. firm, with Bahamian contractors receiving little to nothing,” LPP said.
“By agreeing to continue with this outdated model of exclusive island cruise ports, the government will not be broadening Bahamian ownership and entrepreneurial opportunities for the people of South Eleuthera.
“The Lighthouse Point Partners, which includes the Leon Levy Foundation, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), the One Eleuthera Foundation and the Island School thank the thousands of Bahamians throughout the country who continue to stand with us as we challenge our government to create a more inclusive and sustainable economic model of development for The Bahamas.”
While the Cabinet Office acknowledged the proposed development of the One Eleuthera Foundation and its partners, it referenced recent polling on the issue which indicated there is wide support of Disney’s proposed development.
The survey was conducted by Bahamian market and opinion research firm Public Domain and paid for by Disney.
Lighthouse Point Partners questioned the objectivity of the poll.
Yesterday, the group again challenged the government’s claim of support for Disney’s development.
“The prime minister himself attended a town meeting in Green Castle on October 10, 2018, which was more like a Disney rally, where residents opposed to Disney’s proposal were shouted down and intimidated by pro Disney supporters without any intervention by the prime minister or any member of the prime minister’s delegation,” the group said.
In its statement, the Cabinet Office said it is aware of meetings held in the communities of Central and South Eleuthera by respective groups, and live radio broadcasts, which have allowed people to express their views.
It referenced the October 10 meeting at Green Castle Primary School as a “regular town hall meeting” where the prime minister informed attendants of the government’s plan for the nation and listened to their concerns.
“During this meeting overwhelming support was expressed for the Disney Cruise Lines Development Ltd. proposal,” the Cabinet Office said.
“The Cabinet Office notes that prior to that town meeting, the One Eleuthera Foundation and its partners held several community meetings in Central and South Eleuthera to promote their proposal.
“This included meetings at Wemyss Bight on 27 July, Deep Creek on 10 August, Tarpum Bay on 17 August, Rock Sound on 31 August and Bannerman Town on 7 September 2018.”
With their “Save Lighthouse Point” petition, BNT and One Eleuthera Foundation have been lobbying the government for approval of an alternative proposal to turn the 700-acre property into a national park.
“We pledge to continue our advocacy for a sustainable model for development in Eleuthera and The Bahamas through constructive engagement with civil society, the Government and the business community,” LPP promised.