Sunday, Dec 15, 2019
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Town planning, or the lack of it

It seems to me that when it comes to town planning, it only affects the more affluent areas of New Providence, where neighborhoods fiercely protect businesses from setting up shop and affecting their way of life and property value.

It does not seem to matter in the Over-the-Hill areas where anything goes – you can start a business or build anything, the biggest eyesores that really shouldn’t happen.

On Wulff Road, for example, you have a major junk yard right on the main road; how in the hell can you allow a major business like this to happen on a major street almost in the heart of the capital?

This scene can be repeated on East Street and Gladstone Road, where these businesses are allowed to operate with impunity.

The same can be found in almost every Over-the-Hill community: businesses, including liquor and food stores, churches, gaming houses, not to mention garages with cars piled in and out of the yard on the sidewalks, smack in the middle of residential neighborhoods.

Recently in the western area of New Providence, a developer bought several acres of beachfront property and the idea was to build a boutique hotel with condos. Well before the application reached the Department of Physical Planning, neighbors came together and voiced their disapproval – emails went flying around garnering support, to ensure that what the developer was planning was not going to happen.

It’s the power of residents fighting to maintain their way of life. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for Over-the-Hill communities, as it appears building codes do not exist and you can erect any structure or no structure and start a business. So who is responsible for this mess? Who monitors these businesses that just move in and set up shop?

It’s apparent that the Department of Physical Planning and whatever ministry is charged with keeping these businesses from encroaching is either not aware or doesn’t have the manpower and resources to enforce the law.

It’s amazing how the affluent neighborhoods can hold off developers when it comes to changing the zoning to suit their needs, when they try to change from residential to multi-family.

You don’t see businesses like garages, liquor stores and gaming houses along the Eastern Road, Sans Souci or Camperdown, or West Bay Street headed to Love Beach or Lyford Cay, but the minute you head off the road like Fox Hill and Bernard Road, it’s a whole different ball game.

In all fairness to the zoning restrictions, which have been around since we had horse and buggy and dirt roads, times have changed. Many areas have become commercial and residences have been built around these business. Case in point, persons build homes around the airport, then complain about the nosiness of the planes – hello, did you not know you were building close to an international airport?

Even in the well-to-do areas, residents, especially those that live on the waterfront, construct walls that run as high as ten feet high, ensuring they have maximum privacy from preying eyes – clearly not following the height restrictions, which is a maximum of six feet, so it shows that breaking the rules crosses economic lines, it’s a free for all.

Nassau’s Over-the-Hill area has become a major eyesore and I’m not sure if the government program to improve the lives of those and to attract others to come in and invest has taken hold yet. I am hoping that despite the disaster that Hurricane Dorian has been on our economy and the loss of lives, the revitalization of Over-the-Hill does not get put on the back-burner.

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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