News & Press Releases
SGCR Team Formally Responds to Neil Sealey
First, Mr. Sealey claims to have no direct connection to the development. Mr. Sealey, are you the husband of Kathleen Sealey? Kathleen is the biologist hired by the development company. If you are the husband, brother, or father of Mrs. Sealey, then I would say that that is a very direct connection. If so, then you have a vested monetary interest in this project’s passage and completion. (Web Editor's note: Neil Sealey is, in fact, the husband of Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey)
Secondly, you mention public meetings that were held previously concerning the project. Many, if not all, locals agree that the meetings were not adequately advertised and sentiments expressed by the locals about this project were negative, and not in support of, as you claim. A follow-up meeting was promised but mysteriously never happened. We challenge you to come to Guana Cay and find anyone in favor of this project. As to your mention of the “Disney” effect on the island, do you realize that the locals also opposed that project?
You mention the sediment runoff from Shell Island. Are you implying that this environmental impact was the fault of the locals? Trust in the fact that the locals have learned a hard lesson from their experience with Disney. Now armed with this knowledge the locals see the potential for a much larger environmental disaster. Disney was only a preview to the feature presentation produced by the Passerine project. The locals refuse to close their eyes to what they now know is a proven fact. Sediment runoff is a death sentence for marine life. The runoff from Shell island dredge spoils contains what used to be under the water. The project you are advocating will contain massive sediment runoff from the construction of the golf course. After the course is complete, the runoff will include all of the chemicals used to maintain the course. You say that runoff is not good, yet you refuse to address the sediment produced by construction, and the chemical goodies that will go along with it. Is it your argument that the residents should close their eyes to further destruction? This new project is a land-based project with a much larger impact than Disney. If you can plainly see the results of Disney’s project, then why can you not see that the results will be even worse with a project of this size? Do these developers have special powers that allow them to carve the land with no runoff and apply liberal amounts of chemicals with no environmental effect, or are the homeowners there signing an agreement that they will never use their bathrooms?
Maybe you even believe that creating a 240-slip marina, that will sink approximately 1,440 creosote soaked or arsenic filled pilings, will have no effect on a beautiful and pristine fish nursery known as Joe’s Creek. Your ignorance is staggering. You claim outright that this project will have absolutely no effect on the reef. This is perhaps your most preposterous statement. You mention the Florida Keys as an example in your article. For your information, there is NO central waste treatment system in existence in the Keys. There are a few small areas that have systems, (one encompassing 15 streets and another serving Key West) but no central system. As of right now, the Florida Keys have a very sick reef in critical condition according to all major environmental groups and government agencies alike. The estimated cost of installing a central waste system in the Keys is $500 million; a price the residents and taxpayers there must pay to even begin to salvage what little is left of that reef. This cost is in addition to the millions it will take to clean up the waters as they are now. These are hard facts and proven figures. Should you dispute these facts and figures then you are welcome to read the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s report on the Marine Sanctuary in the Florida Keys. A copy of this report is on Guana and you are welcome to read it. By the way, the sanctuary was created in the Keys by the United States government as a direct response to the critical condition of the water and reef there. Why is the water and reef in such a critical state? The answer is unchecked development, a lack of a central waste treatment system, and pollution from golf course runoff and holding tanks being dumped with little or no compliance or enforcement of pump-out laws .This is a proven fact. Have you ever been to the Florida Keys? Have you done any research? Perhaps you should check your facts before you present them. Check your facts, or at least visit an area, before you claim knowledge of such. To use your words Mr. Sealey, “your ignorance is particularly apparent.”
Let us be very clear now. We are not against development of this area…we are only opposed to irresponsible development. Everyone is aware that the majority of this land is privately owned and could be sold to someone else to develop. Maybe that is a good thing since the new owners would come in with the knowledge that Guana has a concerned, aware, population that cares about the future of their home. If the new developers started with this in mind, perhaps their development would BEGIN with the goal of sustainable tourism and not end with quick bucks for the developer and lip service for the residents. Is the government of the Bahamas prepared to pay the enormous price that the Florida Keys are now forced to pay?
Right now, Guana Cay is experiencing a period of growth like never before. Fortunately, this growth is steady and digestible. A project of Passerine’s size is enough to choke a herd of elephants and in no way compares to the pace now. To date, no one has constructed 450 homes, a resort golf course, and 240-slip marina in one fell swoop. Perhaps the developers think that no one will notice??? Let us also point out that this development company has absolutely no experience building on a small barrier island in close proximity to a reef. We do not want to be the test case.
Finally, we invite you to ask anyone whether they would prefer a Tom Fazio designed golf course, or a reef designed by the most experienced creators ever, Mother Nature and God.
Aubrey St. John Clarke
COPY OF LETTER TO TRIBUNE FROM NEIL SEALEY, EDITOR,
BAHAMAS JOURNAL OF SCIENCE
Passerine Development on Guana Cay
Your recent letter from Mr Bonds (Saturday 18 December) and front-page report (Monday 20 December) refers to a residential development on the northern end of Guana Cay. Although I have no direct connection with this development I have been privileged to see the plans, and visit the Cay twice this year, and I would like to reassure your readers, and also anyone else exposed to some similar remarks about Passerine in other newspapers, that this development has followed all the correct procedures for safeguarding the environment, has held public meetings, and has presented an EIA to the BEST Commission. I should add that government restricts the developers from promoting their own projects and therefore they cannot reply directly to these published criticisms.
This northern section of Guana Cay is unoccupied at present, but was previously used by Disney as a cruise ship destination which they subsequently abandoned for Gorda Cay. The remnants of this operation, which include a decaying jetty, a large number of service buildings and amenities onshore, and a dredged channel and island formed from the spoil heap, are all eyesores and existing blights on the environment. The 3.5 mile dredged channel was considered one of the biggest environmental disasters to reefs by reef biologist Dr. Judy Lang, who opposed its construction in 1988. Major disturbance to the Baker’s Bay shoreline included the bulldozing of sand dunes which has resulted in massive casuarina invasion which is causing beach erosion, and unless checked will continue to destroy native plants and cause shoreline retreat. The Passerine development intends to restore all these contaminated and disturbed areas and replant native vegetation. The channel and spoil island are not part of the development and this problem should be the focus of any “save the reef” effort. The spoil island continues to erode and destroy valuable fish habitats in the Sea of Abaco as well as increase sediment on the adjacent reefs.
As far as the reefs are concerned there is absolutely nothing in the development that will impact them on either shore, and they have been surveyed for the first time and will continue to be monitored by a professional.
The Joe’s Creek area of wetland is by no means as pristine as is suggested in the reports as Disney had impacted it, as well as visiting yachtsmen who proliferate in the area. Unlike the many parts of Guana Cay that have already been haphazardly developed, and which continue to damage the shoreline, this area has been the subject of close scrutiny, as part of it will be used for the proposed marina. The purpose of the marina is to provide boat slips for the residents who will not be permitted to build any shoreline structures including docks. As these are mainly small slips there are a relatively large number of them, but the marina itself will only cover about 33 acres. However, Passerine has negotiated an agreement with the government to the effect that a larger acreage (89 acres) will actually be preserved and managed by an independent trust, funded buy a levy on the residents, so that it will remain an area preserved and protected for research and recreation by all Bahamians and visitors. In addition to this some 16 acres of mangrove mediation will be undertaken, and the setback for residences will preserve a further 53 acres of dunes. In total there are 158 acres designated “Eco” area, some 25% of the total 600-acre development.
The ignorance of those complaining about this development is particularly apparent when they complain that Passerine will increase the stress on utilities and waste management. The fact is that the other developments have not addressed the solid waste and sewage issues and Passerine has undertaken to build and operate a solid waste transfer station for the whole island. This will involve modern technology to sort the solid waste so that some 30% can be recycled as compost, glass, metal and paper can be separated, and the balance compacted for shipment off the island. Sewage will be treated in a central sewage plant similar to those in use in the Florida Cays.
Similarly the remarks about doubling the island’s population being doubled are way off. Passerine if fully settled would have some 450 homes, while the Guana Cay settlement has 250, Orchid Bay 300 planned, and Kent Smith’s development 550 planned.
I have had the opportunity to visit many developments in the Bahamas over the last 25 years and can frankly find nothing better than this development, which has a low housing density and has employed the most conservative measures to enhance and protect what is left of the natural environment. Most of this land is privately owned and can be sold for development to someone else if not to the Passerine developer.
I have also visited the other private developments that are at present building houses on Guana Cay and cover a much larger area that Passerine. Critics would do well to examine some of these properties now under construction, which from direct observation are clearing natural vegetation unnecessarily, replacing it with exotics including the invasive Scaveola, and undertaking alteration of the shoreline, no doubt without the knowledge or permission of the authorities.
The well-attended meeting in August, patronized mainly by native Abaconians, raised hardly any of these issues, and the matter of Joe’s Creek when explained was accepted with approval. Perhaps the mostly anonymous critics of this development would help their cause if they were to identify themselves and their specific interests and investment in Guana Cay, and approach the developer with constructive suggestions about their areas of concern. The people financing the “Save the Guana Cay” campaign include other expatriate developers on Guana Cay, not exactly working in the interest of the Bahamian people. Bahamians, and especially Abaconians, should not allow themselves to be misinformed by persons with unspecified agendas who use emotive rhetoric to stir up mistrust in a sound development that will enhance a beautiful island.
Neil Sealey, Editor, Bahamas Journal of Science