The physical environment of The Bahamas has been assaulted over the years by the absence of or lax imposition of zoning orders in far too many neighborhoods.
As a result, Bahamians living in peaceful residential neighborhoods are often invaded by businesses – gas stations and mechanic shops, manufacturing plants, commercial shopping centers and even schools — all in the name of someone trying to “make an honest living”.
Many have found their access to or even their sightlines to the sea restricted or blocked by developments that appear without reference to the surrounding community. Elsewhere, ponds and wetlands have been closed off from the public (exhibit Sea Beach) or used as dumping grounds by commercial enterprises (as was the case at Harrold Pond and Wilson Pond) all without penalty to the abusers.
Changes in use of a property impacts traffic and overnight storage of large delivery trucks and buses become eye sores in what were previously residential and low-impact recreational spaces.
The Planning and Subdivisions Act enacted in 2010 was supposed to address many of the inadequacies of planning and development in The Bahamas. In the Family Islands, it was supposed to strengthen further the authority of local administrators and elected town counsellors and increase their involvement in the approval and permitting process for development and construction.
While we recognize the increased practice of the Town Planning Department Committee in seeking public views on proposed developments, there has not been a measurable change in outcomes.
As private protests build we question whether the slow commercialization of residential properties rented out for weekend soirées or registered online as vacation air bed and breakfast (Airbnb) properties will be permitted to change the character of neighborhoods without reference to other property owners.
It seems to us that the only official attention being given to this phenomenon is whether the government might exact some additional taxes from the “new business” and not whether the lifestyle of its people is being adversely impacted by this newest import from abroad.
Of equal concern to many must be the disregard, tolerated by the powers that be, of rules governing the use of public spaces.
Periodically we hear that unlicensed roadside vendors will be dealt with.
Should this lead us to assume therefore that the array of street vendors at R.M. Bailey Park are licensed to be in competition with shops that pay rent, utilities and wages across the street at the Mall at Marathon?
And are the food and drink vendors who pop up along the road whether at sundry construction sites, opposite beachfront recreational spaces such as at the Caves West Bay Street or along JFK Drive in the vicinity of the airport licensed?
And what of those food trucks that set up business in parking spaces meant for customers in bank and other commercial centers?
And when will the persistent practice of private persons parking vehicles for sale along the highways and side streets of New Providence be stopped? Surely, licensed motor vehicle sales centers that pay customs duty, VAT and public utility fees and create legitimate employment should be entitled to some protection from these competitors.
And finally, are we to imagine that the horrendous conditions created by commercial sloops and other boats, many that look abandoned, along the extended Arawak Cay are permitted by someone in authority?
It cannot be that those responsible for creating this additional high value real estate in the heart of the city meant that it would become a new dumping ground for ship wrecks, sand, rocks and whatever.