BIRD responds to 4M on Harbour Island community fund

The embattled Briland Residences and Marina project by 4M Harbour Island Ltd. continues to be a contentious issue for Br-Island Responsible Development Ltd. (BIRD), which in a statement scoffed at the suggestion by 4M’s principal Michael Wiener that a fund be created by his company and BIRD that commits $1 million to the Harbour Island community over a five-year period.

“Mr. Wiener in his latest press release seems to claim that he is willing to donate a $100,000 per year to local institutions,” BIRD’s statement reads.

“This seems shockingly small in comparison to what members of BIRD have contributed locally to the community in the terms of donations. In the last year alone in excess of a million dollars has been donated collectively to various community institutions.

“Ben Simmons (owner of The Other Side hotel on Eleuthera) has privately pledged $100,000 per year indefinitely to a new environmentally focused green school on the island and already donated $65,000 to its inception without ever receiving a concession from the government.

“We would ask Mr. Wiener to… try if he can to match dollar for dollar the contributions that the BIRD

community has donated. His bid for $100,000 per year for only five years has already been dwarfed.”

Last week during a town hall meeting to decide on whether 4M’s project would move forward, Harbour Island residents who are in support of the Briland Residences and Marina project found themselves engaged in a war of words with high-net-worth second home owners who reside on Harbour Island, some of whom are part of BIRD and some Harbour Island residents who oppose the project.

During the town hall meeting, there appeared to be overwhelming support for the project by residents of Harbour Island. It was announced on Friday that the Harbour Island District Council approved the site plan for the project.

Simmons told Guardian Business that besides his $100,000 pledge per year to a green school, which is owned by his brother, William Simmons, he has spent close to another $20,000 in other various donations to churches, cook outs, hurricane relief, etc.

“Between myself and one other BIRD member, we have already matched three years of Wiener’s proposed contribution. There are over 200 members in BIRD and the donations to the community are in excess of $1 million dollars this year alone.”

Weiner’s Briland Residences and Marina project has been stalled by lawsuits introduced by Simmons and BIRD.

4M said in a statement on Sunday: “Having heard the concerns from some second home owners at the town hall meeting about the need for improvements on the island, Mr. Wiener said he was pleased to announce the commitment of $500,000 paid in $100,000 installments over a five-year period to various local institutions. Mr. Wiener said in the spirit of bringing the community together he encouraged the once-opponents of his development, BIRD and Benjamin Simmons to support this commitment with a dollar-for-dollar matching grant.”

According to Simmons, BIRD’s 2019 contributions to the Harbour Island community include $40,000 in hurricane relief efforts; $35,000 to send two students to University in Nassau (including rent); $25,000 to send a student to Florida State; $30,000 to send a student to Temple University; $9,000 for a student to attend George Brown University in Toronto; $11,000 for a student to attend Ryerson University, Toronto; $25,000 for school fund improvements; $45,000 for medical bill payments; $10,000 to send three boys to Canadian summer camp; $5,000 donated to an animal fund; $5,000 to Junkanoo and $2,500 toward a church donation. “Plus numerous small donations here and there,” said Simmons.

Weiner said he hopes to restart the Briland Residences project in order to create jobs and contribute to the community.

“It is our hope that this combined community funding will go a long way to improving and enhancing this wonderful island that we all love, whether it is through scholarships, community programs or small business capital funding,” Weiner said.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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