Two representatives of the Investment Club, Dr Hesketh Vanterpool and Romney Penn, came under fire at a community meeting in Virgin Gorda last evening (March 29) as they tried to allay fears about a major harbour development project they are undertaking.
Residents have been fuming over a number of issues, especially the fact that they were not consulted before the project started, and the fact that no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted.
In relation to the issue of consultation, Penn declared that Government representatives are the ones responsible to provide residents with information about the type of development being undertaken.
“I am just a developer. I mean, I could understand you guys’ anger. I should not be the messenger. [Dr Hubert O’Neal] is your District representative. The government should probably convey the information to you all. I mean, I follow all the processes that’s available to me in order to facilitate my development,” Penn told the residents – some of whom felt offended by his remarks. Penn then apologized.
Restoration; not reclamation
He stated, regarding concerns about environmental impact, no land is being reclaimed.
Penn tried to explain the works being done near the ferry dock, which adjoins the marina property. “The piece [of land] you all refer to as reclamation in the front, what has happened is that the Ports Authority has approached us since we are doing the work [on the marina]. The Port has to repair the dock over there, and they needed a place in order to facilitate barge coming. I think they are going to have 200 containers coming for Little Dix Bay, which is supposed to be ready in November this year.”
“So they (government agencies) reached out to us and asked if we could help to facilitate a barge ramp. What we did is we looked at ways to do it. The Permanent Secretary, Town and Country Planning Department, and Conservation and Fisheries all came over and take a look,” Penn explained.
He stated that, at this stage of the marina development, he and other members of the Investment Club are merely securing the marina that exists, adding that it is already severely undermined.
Penn noted that, for example, the bulkhead is collapsing on the inner side of the marina, and ground is being lost on the outer side due to high ground swell.
“We also applied [to the governmental authorities for permission] to restore land we’ve lost through erosion. All who are sailing in and out of the marina, you can see that a tremendous amount of erosion has taken place. All you have to do is have a ground swell and a tropical storm, and we could lose the whole marina. We decided to do some mitigation in order to protect it.”
“What we did, rather than apply for reclamation, we applied for restoration… If you are worried about the beach and land erosion, it is not going to be an erosion… What we are doing is to maintain and secure what we have now; trying to take care of our base before we start extending. That’s what you see going on,” Penn further told area residents.
He also tried to allay fears that the water may be polluted and reef destroyed as a result of the development.
“In terms of the waste from the boat, everything that we do in the marina, we are going to have drains and stuff. All that stuff is gonna be self-contained. Nothing is going to be going back into the water… All the run-offs and all the paints and everything is going to be self-contained before it is disposed. There is nothing that is going to be disposed back into the harbour… If we screw it up and we make it wrong, it is going to be to our detriment. So we are not going to do that,” Penn further promised.
Why no EIA
Some residents, who were not convinced that the development will not damage the environment, asked why an EIA was not done.
Penn replied: “[It was not done] because that’s premature. We are not ready to do that; we are not ready to do that yet, because there is a whole lot of expense and a whole lot of engineers and a whole lot of consultants that has to be part of that process.”
He, along with Dr Vanterpool, noted that the Investment Club has a master plan for development of the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour Development.
“I don’t do any development without a master plan and a way forward. We have a master plan that is going to probably change the whole dynamics of what is going to be going on within the marina. That master plan, in order for it to come to fruition, we will have to have a meeting such as this,” Penn added.
Dr Vanterpool promised to meet with residents to provide them with details of the master plan.
The investors, in developing the current marina, are preparing to target the high-end players in the yachting industry.
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