Following please find an open letter on an issue of great urgency that I believe has implications for every TCI resident:
Fellow TCI residents, please listen to my story about the desecration of the Leeward-Going-Through area and draw your own conclusions as to whether your best interests are being served. It is a story that transcends nationality, political affiliation, regional identity or even hardened opinions on TCI development. This is an issue of National importance that will set precedents for all future development.
It is clear how our tourism and government officials market the country when it comes to attracting the "high end" tourist and investor. We are "Beautiful by Nature", our mantra when competing with other island destinations. But increasingly we have been catering to recently-arrived developers who consider our natural environment as a blank canvas to be improved upon. As in the following case, these grandiose development schemes generally are approved with scanty, preconceived environmental impact data and with little regard to the future or overall welfare of the local population. It could be time to "draw a line in the sand" with the excesses of two such a developments, the Leeward Marina & "Star Island" schemes.
According to the TCI National Parks Ordinance '98;
"An area which is designated as national park shall be open to members of the public for recreational use, including camping, fishing and sailing, and the Governor may make a grant of development permission for the erection in the area of buildings, marinas, etc for enjoyment by the public of the natural setting.....the PARAMOUNT consideration shall be to limit such development to the minimum consistent with the reasonable access to and enjoyment of the area by members of the public"
"Star Island', as designed, will establish high-end home sites over 95 acres of pristine conch and turtle habitat that is currently National Park. Are the Park boundaries to be redrawn, with "Star Island" to be taken out of the Park system? This hasn't happened yet, and it seems as though experts would be consulted and public opinion gauged before taking such an extreme decision. As we all appreciate, there are no private beaches in the TCI. Is the TCIG attempting to privatize parts of one of our most popular National Parks?
The developer of "Star Island" has also been granted a 99 year license by the TCIG (with option to purchase) that governs the Leeward Channel seabed. This newly-arrived developer, Mr. Rodney Propps, is quite happy to swing his elbows in displacing folks whose families have used the Leeward Harbour for generations. As he is eager to express, "the TCIG is 100% behind me". So let's peel away a few more layers off the onion...
A few years ago, Mr. Rodney Propps hit our shores on a "fishing expedition". He stumbled upon the Leeward Marina and in short order assumed control of a project that had been idled for many years. Michael Ashcroft had shelved the project in '98, partly because of the local opposition he had met when trying to take control of the Leeward-Going-Through sea bed. Almost a decade later, Allan Forrest, Johnston and Ashcroft had found a willing partner in Mr. Propps.
On Oct 10th '07, the Cabinet approved a License for Propps and Co. to mine sand from the LGT sea bed. It was essentially the same license that had been approved for Michael Ashcroft ten years earlier.
Mr. Propps and his agents have made it clear that their interpretation of the License gives them rights over the entire Leeward Harbour and sea-bed. They clearly have rights to dredge sand from Heaving Down Rock all the way to Leeward Cut, and that is happening now. What is not clear is if, as they claim, Propps and Co can displace local folks who have been using the Leeward Harbour for generations.
The Leeward Harbour was cut by the natural flow of water from the Banks to the Ocean. Ebb, flow, ebb, flow, four times a day since the formation of these Islands thousands of years ago. The Lucayan Indians used the Leeward Harbour as a safe haven, as have successive generations of Turks and Caicos Islanders. The Stubbs family can claim four generations of mariners to have used the Leeward Harbour as an anchorage, and we can safely say that the waterway was used by the earliest settlers in the late 1700's.
I think we all recognize that Propps and Co would be foolhardy in trying to restrict right of passage in the Leeward Channel. The real issue is the restriction on vessels using the traditional Harbour as a Harbour. It would not make Propps and Co happy to have a conch boat anchored in front of their Nikki Beach or "Star Island" developments.
I read with amusement Mr. Propps assertion that only a small fraction of sand extracted from the Leeward sea-bed would be sold. A call to his agents listed on the illegally posted signs at the IGA and Blue Hills round-abouts generated an offer of "as much sand as needed' at $15/cu yd. The same offer has been tendered to most of the large raw material firms on Provo. Per his agreement with the TCIG and the Crown, Propps and Co. must pay the TCIG $1 for every cubic yard of sand extracted. Devcon, the dredging contractor, charges approx $4/cu yd to pile the product on Leeward Point. Market rate for construction grade sand is $50/cubic yard. So why did the TCIG/the Crown sell it for $1? If Mr. Propps were to fully apply his rights per the License, he could extract millions of cubic yards of sand.
I was also amused by Propps taking credit for "a 400% increase in Leeward property values". In the three years that Propps has been working on his TCI schemes, as a matter of record, Leeward property values have ticked up marginally.
I am all for "sustainable development". I realize that our resource-poor country must systematically build to cater to the current baby boom. One only had to spend time at the recently completed Primary Schools National Track competition to understand that there will be a huge wave of kids looking for jobs in ten short years. But by giving away our most valuable Harbour to an unscrupulous developer and allowing a Dubai-style reclaimed island in our most popular National Park, all while flying the environmental flag, appears duplicitous and sets a poor example for those same kids.
So as the Premier stated in is recent address to the nation, "let there be debate" on this matter. If "Star Island" and the Leeward Channel deals can stand up to scrutiny and be supported by the general public, then so be it. Let the debate begin.
"A Concerned Citizen"
If everything looks correct, click sign now. Your signature will not be added until you click the button below.