The government has agreed to lease to Disney Cruise Line portions of the seabed in South Eleuthera at a cost of $1,000 per acre for 50 years, for its $250 million to $400 million cruise port at Lighthouse Point, according to the heads of agreement (HOA) for the controversial project.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis tabled the much-anticipated document in the House of Assembly yesterday.
The document notes that the portion of the seabed to be leased by the government consists of the seabed underlying the proposed pier, berth and marina for the project.
The dimensions and location of the seabed are still under consideration, but will be provided to the government and relevant agencies prior to the lease execution.
According to the HOA, Disney also has the right to renew the lease for another 50-year term.
“Before the lease may be executed, the developer shall provide the government with any and all information necessary for the relevant governmental agencies to conclude its review, including, but not limited to, the environmental impact assessment, environmental management plan, geotechnical drawings and engineering drawings,” the HOA states.
“The government shall lease the seabed to the developer at the annual base rent in the amount of $1,000 per acre for the first 10 years and upon such other terms and conditions to be mutually agreed by the parties.
“A rent review shall be conducted by the government every 10 years thereafter and the rent to be paid will be the base rent increased in proportion to the increase in the price index during the relevant 10-year portion of the term.”
The agreement notes that the government must give notice of an increase in the base rent, and its calculation, no later than 60 days prior to the increase.
Additionally the payment of any rent under the lease shall not be subject to stamp duty.
“The seabed lease shall be free and clear of all adverse claims of title, lease or encumbrance of any kind and that the government shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the developer from any and all such claims or legal actions whatsoever,” it added.
The project will include the construction of the pier, berth and marina; construction and operation of dining and beverage facilities; beach expansion, enhancement and improvement; themed buildings and themed elements, play areas, attractions and structures; employee dining, housing and recreation facilities, among other features.
Opponents to Disney’s development had expressed concern about the project potentially destroying the ecological and cultural assets of local environments, the project stripping locals of access to beaches and public spaces and not stimulating the local economy.
However, the HOA outlines that construction on the project cannot start until an EIA and environmental management plan (EMP) have been reviewed and approved.
“The developer agrees to facilitate the inspection of the project by the BEST Commission and other relevant governmental agencies, during all stages of the project in order to monitor developer’s compliance with the EMP,” the document states.
Additionally, Disney has agreed to to take all necessary steps as required by the relevant government agencies to remedy or mitigate any damage to the environment resulting from the negligence of the company, its contractors or subcontractors in executing any works connected with the project.
Disney will be permitted to use sand from mining operations to enhance, improve and maintain beaches at a “reasonable and customary fee”.
If the government doesn’t ensure the approvals, determinations, licenses, permissions, and entitlements for certain aspects of the project are granted 18 months after the the issuance of approval of the EIA, then Disney can send a written notice to the government of its intent to not proceed with the project 90 days from the date of the notice.
If within the 90 days all outstanding factors are not satisfactorily resolved by the developer and the government, the HOA will be terminated and the government will be released from their obligations under the agreement at no cost or reimbursement.
Among its other environmental clauses, Disney has agreed to include in its contract construction documents, penalties for violating sound environmental practices.
The agreement further mandates that Disney directly employ at least 120 Bahamians during the construction of the project.
Disney has also committed to an overall ratio of 80 percent Bahamian workers to 20 percent non-Bahamian workers during the life of the construction phase of the project.
The heads of agreement was signed by Secretary of the Cabinet Camille Johnson and Disney Cruise Line President Jeff Vahle on March 7, 2019.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications