by Larry Smith
"In The Bahamas, for some, change is either too early or long overdue." -- Hubert Ingraham
Three years ago, outgoing government planning consultant, Malcolm Martini, told a group of Rotarians that the future of New Providence was at risk unless some tough decisions were made.
With few controls over the little land left to service a rapidly growing population (estimated at 240,000-plus today), and physical limits on what can be added to the transportation network, we could look forward to traffic gridlock, congested urban development, vanishing green spaces, and a generally unpleasant quality of life, he said.
Not long after Martini's talk, Shirlea residents found themselves in a futile battle to curb inappropriate commercial development in their sedate little neighbourhood. And any drive through Nassau makes it clear that most residential areas are under the same threat, especially if they are near commercial zones.
A few months ago we celebrated the grand opening of a multi-million-dollar shopping centre near Coral Harbour. On relatively virgin territory, the wealthy developers erased and scarified the pine forest to erect the most banal roadside strip mall imaginable. Not a tree was left standing on this huge, barren and sun-burnt expanse of land.
Two years ago, a supreme court judge hit out at lawyers who sought to regularise illegal real estate transactions by sprinkling "magic lawyer dust", striking a chord with many Bahamians who have fallen victim to questionable real estate deals over the years. But his ruling that developers cannot legally sell lots in unapproved subdivisions was overturned on appeal.
And just recently, Frederick and Maria Wood saw their little home south of Charles Saunders Highway demolished by Bahamian developers who have spent "millions" pursuing their legitimate rights to subdivide the land for housing estates.