After much debate, town hall meetings, and heated arguments for and against that reached a public crescendo, the Bahamas government has approved Disney Cruise Line’s nearly half-billion dollar proposal to develop the Lighthouse Point property in South Eleuthera into a cruise port.
“The government of The Bahamas having taken into consideration the views of the majority of the people of Central and South Eleuthera is satisfied that it has made the best decision in the interest of the Bahamian people, a sustainable future for the people of Central and South Eleuthera, and the economic development of the country,” said the Cabinet Office in a statement issued following a National Economic Council meeting on the matter.
The Cabinet Office said negotiations will now begin on an agreement, which will detail the scope of the project, and the obligations of both Disney and the government. The government said, when concluded, the agreement will be tabled in Parliament in “keeping with the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability”.
The Cabinet Office acknowledged the Lighthouse Point development has been the subject of considerable public discourse. But it pointed out that the land in question for the proposed development is privately owned and not Crown Land. The Cabinet Office also noted that Disney has a sales agreement with the land owner to purchase the land.
Opponents to Disney’s development have expressed concern about the project potentially destroying the ecological and cultural assets of local environments, the project stripping locals of access to beaches and public spaces, and not stimulating the local economy. But the Cabinet Office said that Disney is committed to low density development and sustainable design, public access, and the restoration of various historical and cultural sites.
It also said the development will create approximately 150 new jobs and an “array of entrepreneurial opportunities for residents of Eleuthera and Bahamians in general.” As part of its development, Disney will also convey approximately 190 acres of the land purchased to the government for conservation and a national park, according to the statement. “Other elements of the project include the integration of Bahamian cultural and artistic expression into the design of the site and experiences offered, and partnership with the community to develop training and professional development programs,” the statement read.
Noting Disney’s record of “environmental stewardship,” the Cabinet Office also said it will ensure that the project is implemented in a way that safeguards the environment and the interests of the Bahamian people. In a separate statement after the approval was announced, Disney said it looks forward to working with the government and the Bahamian people to create new economic opportunities while preserving the natural beauty of Lighthouse Point. “We are grateful for the warm welcome and support we have received from so many in Eleuthera and look forward to further developing relationships that will endure for many years to come,” said Disney Cruise Line President, Jeff Vahle.
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