Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development George Payne has offered Government suggestions to address concerns about beachfront property developers blocking beach access to Barbadians, including leasing rather than selling lands to investors and retaining control of beaches.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on a resolution to lease a parcel of land to Mahogany Park Inc. to develop a property at Maxwell, Christ Church for tourism and public parking, Payne suggested that Government should oversee use of beaches even when land connected to them was being developed.
“In situations where people are interested in lands near the beach, there are three things governments should consider: the option of changing the legislation, because presently when people buy the land they purchase the beach as well. An option should be given to ensure land accreted should belong to the Crown, rather than the owner of the adjoining land.
“In my view, Government should be careful in selling lands to a developer if proper guidelines are not given regarding the utilization of it and beach access. In this case, rather than sell to private developers, Government should give a long-term lease. The third option is if the investor does not plan to maintain or keep all of the land, Government should subdivide the land near the foreshore and hold onto it,” he explained.
Payne stated that the Maxwell project before the House of Assembly had been in the works since 2001.
He explained that there were two parcels initially acquired – one for a beach access and the other for public parking facilities. At the time, there was a building located on the property and it was felt it could have been used by the National Conservation Commission (NCC), but after it was acquired, Payne said, the NCC did not do anything to reveal any interest in the building.
“Eventually, the building deteriorated and the Ministry of Health was in the process of demolishing it when an unsolicited proposal came from someone in the area expressing an interest in using the property as a bed and breakfast,” the Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development explained.
That proposal also included parking and shower facilities accessible to members of the public making use of the adjacent beach and beach access.
“So the Ministry of Housing requested a stay, contacted the General Manager of the NCC again, and they said they had no objection to the proposal. On May 9, 2019, Cabinet decided to lease the property to the individual for 25 years, with the option to renew it for another 25 years,” Payne said.
Outlining some of the terms and conditions of the lease arrangement, the Minister said that Mahogany Park Inc. a company owned by a Barbadian who resides in the Maxwell area, would have to: keep the premises in good repair throughout the term of the lease; bear the cost of developing the site; comply with the Town & Country Development Planning Office and other government agencies; and pay the cost of developing the site and complying with all the land tax, property and liability insurances arising from use.
Mahogany Park Inc. must also insure the premises at full reinstatement cost in the joint names of the company and the Crown.
“Bearing in mind the proposed lessee will pay a considerable amount to get the property up to scratch, it is proposed in year one to five they will pay $9,920 a year, then after five years they will pay double this amount,” Payne added. “This project embodies what Government has been advocating when it speaks of joint venture operations in terms of reusing old buildings, not just by repairing them but making them into revenue generating opportunities.”
Payne lamented that Government had allowed its vacant buildings to fall into ruin, adding that private investors had expressed an interest in acquiring some of these properties.
“There is Leland in Pine Plantation Road which the Alzheimer’s Association has expressed an interest in, and The St Winifred’s School has expressed an interest in acquiring the nearby Dalmoney property for conference facilities. The old Glendairy Prison has gone into disrepair and there are some people squatting in the area so we are hoping for a request for proposals so we can work on it. The National Union of Public Workers had expressed an interest in using the old St Bartholomew’s Primary School as a bed and breakfast. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport and Works will be using the former Barbados Water Authority building next door to it for the Drainage Division and the Building Standards Authority,” he said.