The government continues to negotiate with the Harbour Island Commonage Committee on 600 acres of land in order to construct the $60 million North Eleuthera airport that Director of Aviation Algernon Cargill said is crucial for the sustainability of North Eleuthera’s tourism product.
Cargill explained that while it is the government’s first choice to work with the committee to acquire the land, if a mutual agreement cannot be met, the government will have to look at other legal ways of acquiring the land.
“We are working with the commonage committee to acquire the land through some sort of arrangement with the commonage being partners with the airport. That’s our first strategy, to work with the commonage to acquire the land,” Cargill said.
“Obviously if we cannot work this arrangement out and if the government has a real desire to move forward with the airport, it has to look at what other options are available through law to obtain this land.”
According to Cargill, compulsory acquisition of the land with compensation to the commonage is an option for government.
However he added: “Our primary focus is to work in partnership with the commonage to be able to acquire the land in terms of some sort of arrangement for the airport. The airport is key to the tourism product of North Eleuthera.”
The Harbour Island Commonage Committee has been working to change commonage rules so that it can properly do business with the government on its plan to redevelop the North Eleuthera airport, which sits on commonage land, attorney for the committee Richette Percentie told Guardian Business recently.
The committee is hoping to have its rules legitimize the use of commonage land for commercial endeavors. The language in the Commonage Act suggests that the land can only be used for cultivation and that no one other than a commoner can use the land for such purposes.