Davis says he invited Smith to resubmit PI proposal 

Prime Minister Philip Davis said yesterday that he invited Bahamian businessman Toby Smith to reapply to the government for approval for his Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club project.

The government granted Royal Caribbean International (RCI) approval for its $100 million beach club project on the western end of Paradise Island – near the site where Smith wishes to develop his project.

Davis noted that the court ruled that Smith had no valid lease for the land and that Smith messaged him about a week ago.

“I’ve invited him to, if he is interested, to reapply for consideration of the government of his project. So we await his application,” Davis said.

Asked if the government has an appetite for the project, Davis replied, “I would not have invited him to apply if we did not have an appetite to consider it.”

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper said Smith’s project was still under consideration.

Smith had argued that the RCI deal under the Minnis administration was unlawfully violating a lease he said he held for the land from the Bahamas government.

Smith said he planned to develop the land into his own beach club after receiving a letter from the government dated January 7, 2020, agreeing to lease the land to his company, Paradise Island Lighthouse and Beach Club Company Limited.

But Chief Justice Sir Ian Winder recently found that Smith did not have a claim to Crown land in that vicinity because his Crown land lease with the government for five acres was never executed.

Royal Caribbean is interested in developing a beach excursion on Paradise Island, noting that it plans to greatly increase the number of passengers it brings into Nassau in the future and citing a need for more options for guests when they leave the ship while in port.

Members of the Progressive Liberal Party, including Davis, supported Smith’s project when they served in opposition.

“… Any project of this type should be owned and operated by Bahamians,” Davis had said. 

Ahead of themselves

The prime minister also responded to concerns about RCI’s project raised by Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell.

“Her concerns are legitimate concerns,” he said.

“I think they are a bit ahead of themselves in the sense that those concerns will be taken into account when the final decisions are made in respect to what the development will look like.”

Oswell said the decision to green light the development is “premature” as there are many unanswered questions over its environmental and economic impact.

“What is needed now, before it’s too late, is a heightened level of scrutiny and discourse,” she said.

“Too much is at stake to stay silent. It has not been confirmed that the RCI project does not pose serious threats to our beautiful beaches, marine life, and their habitats.

“If this residential land is overdeveloped or the beaches and coastline altered in any way, the Paradise Island coastline, Cable Beach, Saunders Beach, and our economic livelihood stand to suffer.

“It is not surprising that with few opportunities throughout the review process for the voices of citizens and businesses to be heard, public awareness of these impacts has not kept up with the severity of these threats.”

But Davis said Atlantis is “speaking as though the decision has been made without these things being taken into account”.

“They still have to go through the environmental process to determine what is environmentally friendly,” he said.

“That’s not my call. That is the Department of Environmental Protection agency. They will look at what is there and they will tell us about the environmental impact that the development will have and they will decide whether it will go on in that form or fashion.”

The prime minister also shrugged off concerns raised by Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville.

“He has to understand what the deal is like,” Davis said.

“We ought to speak when we know all the facts. I will not be presiding over a decision that would lead to the consequences that he is suggesting.

“What he has to appreciate is that RCL, Royal Caribbean, they already own several acres of land there. They are developing their own land. They asking us to partner with them with our land to make the experience for visitors more palatable. 

“In that partnering, the people in The Bahamas will not be left out.”

Darville questioned what kind of environmental impact Royal Caribbean’s development will have on the surrounding coastline. He also noted, “The incomparable national treasures that have fallen to this trend are too numerous to count.

“On some islands, New Providence in particular, there is scarcely any access at all to the coast for regular Bahamians.”

A day after the deputy prime minister announced the RCI project has been approved, the prime minister told reporters he expected the groundbreaking “almost immediately”. 

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the news editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to news editor in January 2023.

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