Another Piece on how Resorts World Treat the Locals!

Bimini Developer Plans Lawsuit On Club's Demolition
As of Thursday, October 31, 2013
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#By NEIL HARTNELL

#Tribune Business Editor

#[email protected]

#A club owner yesterday said he aims to file a lawsuit against the Bimini Bay Resort’s original developers “any day now” over the alleged demolition of his property, adding: “I’m not going to stop until I have justice.”

#Garrick Edwards, the entertainment owner/promoter behind the Sakara Beach Club, said he was not going to let RAV Bahamas and its principals walk away from the July 18 bulldozing of his property “as if it’s no big deal”.

#Disclosing to Tribune Business that the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) had informed him they were not going to investigate the incident on the grounds it was ‘a civil matter’, Mr Edwards said this was the course he was now pursuing.

#“That is on the table right now,” Mr Edwards replied, when asked by Tribune Business whether he planned to initiate legal action over the alleged Sakara Beach Club demolition.

#“My attorneys are seeing to it, and hopefully something will be filed any day now.” His attorney is Mario Gray.

#“I’m like a pitbull,” Mr Edwards added. “You knock me down, and I keep coming back stringer and stronger.

#“They’re not going to get away with this. If I have to go to the Privy Council in London, I will do so.

#“I’m in for the long haul. We’re not going to stop until justice is brought. I would be doing my staff an injustice if I did not go out there and bring to light the things I do know.”

#Tribune Business reported last week how Mr Edwards’ club was demolished, allegedly without authorisation, by RAV Bahamas, which is owned by developer Gerardo Capo, in the early morning hours of July 18, 2013, putting his 15-strong Biminite staff out of work.

#Rafael Reyes, RAV Bahamas’ vice-president and Mr Capo’s son-in-law, who Mr Edwards accused of giving the orders to demolish the Sakara Beach Club, told this newspaper he would be “interested” to hear what Mr Edwards had to say.

#However, he has never responded further, and RAV Bahamas has said nothing since the article was published.

#Mr Edwards, though, told Tribune Business that all his former staff had been unable to find jobs since the demolition.

#“Jobs in Bimini are very hard to come by; life is not easy at all,” he told Tribune Business. “We’d trained them, our staff were ready to go, and we had a real good family.

#“People have been sending me e-mails about my staff, and now they’ve lost their jobs they can’t be hired back [by Bimini Bay] because they worked for me.

#“They take away their livelihoods, and not even given them an opportunity to work in the industry.”

#Mr Edwards described the police’s refusal to investigate the alleged Sakara Beach Club demolition, and position that it was a ‘civil matter’, as “crazy”.

#“They [RAV Bahamas] destroyed Bahamian jobs with no justification or authorisation at all, at the snap of a finger, and are able to walk away as if it’s no big deal,” he told Tribune Business.

#“Bimini does not belong to the Biminites any more. That’s basically what it is. It no longer belongs to the Bahamas.”

#Pledging that he was “up for a serious fight”, Mr Edwards said he planned to make known what had happened to Sakara Beach Club in all the key US tourist markets that Genting/Resorts World Bimini will be targeting.

#Resorts World previously declined to comment on the Sakara Beach Club situation, saying the matter concerned Bimini Bay’s original developers, RAV Bahamas and the Miami-based Capo Group.

#RAV Bahamas and Bimini Bay Management previously took Sakara Beach Club and its parent company to court, seeking a declaration that the original lease agreement was ‘null and void’ because Mr Edwards, as an international investor, did not have the relevant International Persons Landholding Act permits.

#The case was ultimately thrown out by the Chief Justice in September 2013, almost two months after Sakara Beach Club was demolished.

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  • Bimini's Dive Tourism In Peril 'For Nothing'
    As of Wednesday, October 30, 2013
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    #By NEIL HARTNELL

    #Tribune Business Editor

    #[email protected]

    #Resorts World’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) admits that Bimini’s existing dive tourism model is potentially being placed “at risk for nothing”, a leading environmental attorney warned yesterday.

    #Romauld Ferreira likened both the developer’s and the Government’s determination to proceed with the $10-$15 million terminal/jetty project to “madness”, given that their own EIA conceded that the sustainability of Resorts World’s Miami cruise ship service was questionable.

    #Fresh from studying the EIA, Mr Ferreira said the document revealed that dredging necessary to create the 4.5 acre cruise terminal island would impact 25 acres of seabed - an area that contained most of Bimini’s prime dive sites.

    #Describing the process followed by Resorts World and the Christie administration as “*** backwards”, Mr Ferreira added that the admissions contained in the EIA showed why the Government and its agencies had adopted such a “fortress mentality” to transparency and public consultation.

    #He told Tribune Business that the developer’s own EIA, which it had paid for, showed the Resorts World/Bimini Bay expansion project was both “overdevelopment” and “unsustainable”.

    #Of particular interest to Mr Ferreira was the EIA’s admission as to how much seabed would be affected by the dredging of 220,000 cubic yards of fill, which will be used to create the 4.5 acre island where Resorts World’s cruise ship will dock.

    #“The dredging and the construction of the new island will result in irreversible loss of the existing macro algae and sponges mainly, as well as a small number of corals living on the seabed where dredging is to take place and land is to be reclaimed,” the EIA states.

    #“The area that will be directly affected is more than 25 acres, approximately 17 acres of which is consistent hard bottom, 4.8 acres patchy hard bottom and 2.8 acres sand.”

    #In response, Mr Ferreira added: “Obviously, that is going to interrupt and impact the dive sites. One is just 700 feet away.

    #“This brings up a very startling issue. Fine, you have a 4.5 acre island, but this is going to put far more of the dive sites at risk. It’s a large area.”

    #The EIA itself concedes that 14 known dive spots, or almost 70 per cent of Bimini’s favourite underwater locations, are situated within 1.5 miles of the proposed cruise ship terminal and jetty. The closest, it adds, are 700 feet and 1,500 feet, respectively, from the construction zone.

    #The sites include the Atlantis Road and Three Sisters Rocks, and the EIA concedes: “Diving and snorkelling in Bimini is very popular, and as such a major reason for many tourists to visit Bimini…. This area is of high importance to the diving industry.”

    #Arguing that Bimini was “doing well” now and was the ‘number four’ island for tourism, Mr Ferreira told Tribune Business that its successful dive and fishing-based tourism model were effectively being placed at risk in order to rescue the Bimini Bay project and its survival.

    #“When you take all that in its totality, this development could impact Bimini to such an extent that people currently coming to the island may no longer want to come.

    #“And you’re doing it for project [Bimini Bay] runs as low as 10 per cent. It seems like madness; you’re destroying something that exists already, and are not trying to make it [Bimini Bay] fit in.”

    #Mr Ferreira said the developer’s EIA also admitted that the success of the Miami cruise ship service was unproven, casting doubt over its long-term success and sustainability.

    #It described the projected 11-fold increase in annual visitors to Bimini, taking the total to 570,000 as “questionable”, and warned that “many ship services in the past and present” between Florida and the Bahamas had resulted in failure.

    #“I can understand why they [the Government and Resorts World] had a fortress mentality,” Mr Ferreira told Tribune Business, “with the ferry terminal impacting the natural environment and putting Bimini’s tourism product at risk for nothing.

    #“If, at the end of the day, it collapses, it’s unsustainable, all this will have been for nothing. You’d have destroyed a viable tourist industry.”

    #He added that Resorts World was also failing to follow the advice of its own EIA, namely to conduct an analysis of whether there would be sufficient demand for the service prior to building the cruise terminal/jetty.

    #“They are ignoring the advice of their own EIA, which says you need to do this prior to construction,” Mr Ferreira told Tribune Business.

    #“If your intent is to have minimal impact on the environment, which is honourable and noble, and you turn around and ignore the recommendations of the document you produced, it doesn’t seem logical to me. It really doesn’t. It’s cause for concern.”

    #Summing up his conclusions on the EIA, the well-known environmental attorney said: “I think this shows it’s overdevelopment, and that a massive development is being imposed on the community.

    #“It begs the question as to why it’s not being scaled back. Why go ahead with a project where the developer’s own study gives these admissions? Why are we doing it?”

    #The EIA, he added, conceded that the loss of coral and impact from water turbidity was expected to be “high”, while the increased tourist population’s demand “might deplete fishing stocks to dangerous levels”.

    #“It’s unsustainable,” Mr Ferreira said. “Yet they’re going ahead with it. It’s almost as if they know something we don’t.

    #“It exceeds the ‘carrying capacity’ of Bimini. Why go ahead with something that exceeds that carrying capacity? Why go ahead with a project that’s totally unsustainable?”

    #Recalling how he returned to the Bahamas in 1990 with his ecology degree, Mr Ferreira said this nation had made little progress in 23 years when it came to dealing with issues of overdevelopment and unsustainable development, plus following the correct processes and protocols.

    #“After 23 years of doing this, I look at the progress and see how far we have come,” Mr Ferreira said. “The biggest progress is the Planning and Subdivisions Act, which is not environmental protection.

    #“The reason why we have made no progress is that we’ve been talking to the same people for the past 23 years.”

    #Noting that both Prime Ministers Ingraham and Christie had once held Cabinet posts under the late Sir Lynden Pindling’s government, Mr Ferreira added: “It looks like change will only come when they go, along with that mode of thinking. It’s that mode of thinking that has us. It’s almost as if I’ve been hitting my head against a wall for a long amount of time.

    #“I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s going to end up in court. The instructions for Judicial Review have already been issued.”
  • National Trust 'Gravely Worried' On Bimini Plan
    Tuesday, October 22, 2013
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    #The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) yesterday said Resorts World’s Bimini cruise ship terminal plan would “cause irreparable and continuing damage to the marine environment” if approved in its current form.

    #The BNT, expressing “grave concern” that construction had begun on the offshore jetty, said the Government had not confirmed whether it had reviewed the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) supplied by Resorts World.

    #The developer has supplied a copy of the EIA to the BNT, along with the appendices and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) in response to a further request.

    #Expressing concern that there had been no public consultation on the EIA, and that the document had not been published for review by the Bahamian public, the BNT added that it could not support the current cruise ship proposal.

    #“It is the view of the BNT that the proposed location for the jetty, artificial island and extensive dredging for this development, in close proximity to so many key dive sites, is incompatible with sound environmental policy and practice and, if approved, will likely cause irreparable and continuing damage to the marine environment of Bimini,” the BNT said in a statement.

    #“The proposal to locate the artificial island atop a portion of a live reef is especially troublesome. It is also noted that the ship’s turning action and reversing into its berth, as envisioned in the EIA, will continue to push sand from the sea floor on to the sensitive live coral reef on each occasion that the ship calls on Bimini.

    #Acknowledging the importance of Resorts World’s Bimini investment in generating hundreds of Bahamian jobs and economic growth, the BNT said it was seeking a meeting with government agencies, including the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, to discuss its findings and offer alternatives to lessen the impact on the marine environment.
  • Rough seas turn Bimini into ‘Ghost Town” without SuperFast service

    Thursday, 31 October 2013 09:04
    BIMINI, The Bahamas -- The Bimini business community is experiencing a sharp decline in revenue as rough seas have led to a temporary halt in the service of Bimini SuperFast, turning the island into a virtual ghost town overnight. The cruise ship has brought over 40,000 visitors to the island in its first three months of operation and now, after only a week without the service, business owners who have become accustomed to the robust revenue generated by the daily cruise are calling for its speedy return.

    Bimini SuperFast service was halted on October 24 due to rough seas. While the ship easily maneuvers through the powerful Gulf Stream, the transfer of passengers from the ship to the island via catamaran is untenable under such conditions. The establishment of a pier would eliminate the need for catamarans, which owners could then deploy as touring craft.

    “This is the perfect example of why the pier is such an important component in our overall plan,” says Resorts World Bimini (RWB) President Dana Leibovitz. “The pier would eliminate the practice of ferrying passengers to the island. Until it is complete, turbulent water conditions will continue to be a factor.”

    There has been much speculation in the media regarding whether or not the proposed pier is welcomed by Biminites.

    RWB has maintained that the pier is central to the success of its development and the island as a whole – a view that is now being underscored by the present circumstances. Businesses which were welcoming unprecedented numbers of customers from the cruise say the flow of traffic came to a screeching halt when the service stopped.

    Craft vendor Carmen Dames said the absence of the ship for several days reminded her of the old Bahamian adage – you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry.

    “This well has run dry and we really miss that ship!” she said. The craft market has been closing early everyday because there is nothing happening here.”

    She said that while Biminites were accustomed to this being a slow period, the ship service has now gotten them used to expecting more. “With that ship coming in, we have something to look forward to, but now there’s nothing to look forward to. We really need that ship to come back.”

    Bimini Undersea tour guide Christian Small echoed her sentiments.

    “It has been horrible since the ship has stopped coming and our business has been dramatically impacted,” he said. “It is usually like this in the winter, and the SuperFast has really helped to keep businesses open at this time of the year. I really hope they come back soon.”

    The pier will significantly cut down the length of time it takes to get visitors to shore. This would translate into more time on the island for day trippers and more revenue for the island’s business community.

    “The safety and welfare of our passengers and crew is our top priority,” says Mr. Leibovitz. “It is difficult and potentially dangerous to transport visitors via catamaran during swells of more than three feet. In the past several days due to very high swells it has been impossible to transfer.”

    Weather permitting, the Bimini SuperFast will resume service on November 1.
  • Wednesday, 30 October 2013 17:47
    BIMINI, The Bahamas -- Community leaders are expressing shock and disbelief at the findings of a long-awaited Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a controversial mega development on Bimini.

    The 190-page document, revealed to the media last week, came after Resorts World Bimini, led by Asian Conglomerate Genting Group, had already begun work on a 1,000-foot pier for its cruise ship terminal.

    Approvals for construction have also remained a point of controversy, as cabinet ministers released confusing and at times contradictory statements.

    EARTHCARE, a non-profit organization founded on Grand Bahama in 1988, said the EIA's findings only confirm how successive governments continue to "tear the heart" out of Bimini by letting more than 160 acres of healthy mangrove stands be bulldozed, while a marine nursery in North Sound HAS BEEN dredged to create "cheap fill" for the developer. "Now they want to further eviscerate Bimini by taking her endangered coral reefs as well," said Gail Woon, marine biologist and the founder of EARTHCARE. "It is unnecessary and if allowed will be a complete abomination."

    Joseph Darville, a director of the rapidly expanding environmental movement Save the Bays, said that the report left him “literally sick”. He noted the “extraordinary hazards” associated with the project and the lack of consultation among locals on Bimini.

    Both experts highlighted a number of troubling findings in the report.

    Potential impacts to commercially important species "are expected to be high", according to the EIA, through the disturbance of habitats for spiny lobster, conch, grouper and other marine species. Water quality is expected to take a major hit, which would also considerably hurt the marine ecosystem.

    Environment aside, the report went so far as to suggest the proposed ferry terminal is "incompatible with the existing and future and uses of the remainder of North Bimini".

    Resorts World Bimini has pursued up to 1,500 visitor arrivals each day from nearby Florida once the cruise ship terminal is completed, fueling the development's hotels, casino and second-home market.

    "The number of visitors intended for Bimini is also greater than that appropriate for the ecological and socioeconomic carryon capacity of Bimini Island," the report stated. "The negative impacts ecologically will be extremely high with the high pressure that will be exerted into the local natural resources." More than a dozen well-known diving sites were identified as being threatened and in close proximity to construction.

    The findings of the EIA, prepared by Nassau-based Blue Engineering and including several external expert analyses, came after weeks of confusion and frustration towards government officials on the existence of a report.

    Earlier this month, Romi Ferreira, a leading environmental lawyer and consultant, noted how the document "was never intended to be a secret". He demanded that the Bahamas Environment, Science & Technology Commission make the EIA public.

    "As a matter of fact, one of the rules for the environmental impact assessment, rule seven, mandates that those documents be shared with stakeholders. And we are asking ourselves: what is the rush? We see developments going on, we read the newspaper that there were no permits," he said. "What is the rush? What kind of precedent are we setting?"

    Ferreira is just one of many community advocates pushing for a Freedom of Information Act and an Environmental Protection Act. These pieces of legislation are seen as significant steps to ensuring responsible development for the future.

    Nearly 5,000 people have signed a Save the Bays petition (www.savethebays.bs) urging passage of these laws and the organisation's Facebook page has gained thousands of friends and fans while its Youtube posts are gaining traction. Ferreira urged the government to stay committed to public disclosure and uphold standard international practices.
  • Blue ZoneBlue Zone Posts: 414 Officer
    There seems to be some question as to whether or not the pier construction has actually been approved as it is referred to as "proposed" in the above article.

    RW claims Red will generate 270,000 visitors annually. First three months is 40,000; best case that's 160,000 annually, but I doubt the current numbers are sustainable. Smells like the PM was sold a pig in a poke, then was made party to a significant mess.
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