Originally Published in The Nassau Guardian
Telling the Supreme Court that the “threat to Bimini’s future is substantial”, attorneys for the Bimini Blue Coalition have won leave to apply for a judicial review of the North Bimini Ferry Terminal and 4.5 acre man-made offshore island currently under construction off Bimini by Resorts World Bimini.
Meanwhile, the group will find out in court on Thursday if their further applications for an injunction against the ongoing construction work – until it can be determined that the developer has all necessary authorizations – and their demand for the disclosure of all “permits, approvals, leases and licenses” obtained by the development to date, will be granted.
Environmental attorney Romauld Ferreira of Ferreira and Co. submitted the application for leave to seek a judicial review of the project, in addition to the injunction and “discovery” request seeking the disclosure of permits obtained, in the Freeport Supreme Court late last week.
Ferreira, a long-standing critic of the project, had earlier threatened to move ahead with the action if letters sent to the government calling for the work to be halted did not elicit a response by last Thursday.
Ferreira could not be reached for comment yesterday, however, another attorney with knowledge of the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to comment officially, said the decision by the court to grant the group leave to apply for a judicial review has given them a “foot in the door” that they were looking for.
The group now expects attorneys for Resorts World Bimini to vigorously argue against the injunction in court on Thursday, so that it can continue with the construction work, for which it has indicated it has an aggressive completion schedule. It is not yet clear when the group’s request for a judicial review will be heard.
In the submissions made to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Bimini Blue Coalition it is argued that without an injunction pending the final hearing of the judicial review, “the whole point of the Planning and Subdivisions Act and the Buildings Regulatory Act will be rendered nugatory (and) substantial and irreversible damage will have been suffered by the marine environment.”
Michelle Malcolm, director of public affairs for Resorts World Bimini, said yesterday that the company did not wish to comment on the matter, however the company has repeatedly defended the project, suggesting that it will bring economic benefits to the Bimini community and beyond.
Intended to allow easy docking of the company’s superfast ferry service, the North Bimini Ferry Terminal project, which includes a 1,000-foot pier and a 4.5 acre island, has been highly controversial since it came to light, attracting criticism in particular from the applicant in the judicial review matter, the Bimini Blue Coalition, in addition to the Bahamas National Trust.
In the application for leave for a judicial review, the Bimini Blue Coalition suggested that the project is “insensitive both to the natural environment and to the character of the island, and there is a high risk that it will prove unsustainable – after it has had an irreversible impact on Bimini’s natural resources.”
The application notes many potential negative impacts of the project highlighted in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) commissioned by Resorts World Bimini itself, and states that “having desperately cast about to identify any real positives at all for the development” the EIA lists “positives for the developers, not for the community”.
Prime Minister Perry Christie; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis; the Town Planning Committee; RWBB Resorts Management Ltd; RWBB Management Ltd; Bimini Superfast Charter Ltd and RAV Bahamas are listed as respondents in the matter.
Questioning whether proper procedures were followed prior to the commencement of construction by Resorts World Bimini, the application suggests that the latter four of these entities “have and continue to commit offenses under the legislation in place to regulate development and preserve the natural environment of The Bahamas and that the government ministers and agencies empowered by statute to take action in relation thereto have done nothing despite these matters having been brought to their
The Bimini Blue Coalition defines itself in the judicial review application as a “Bahamian company formed expressly to represent the collective interests of persons committed to protecting the islands of Bimini”.
“Its members include… local residents and landowners as well as members of the public residing in The Bahamas, all of whose interests and rights are affected by the activities of the developers.”