After taking in the views of Cat Islanders who overwhelmingly and enthusiastically endorsed the proposed Cat Island Golf and Beach Resort, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham told residents the Government will approve the project and give it its full support.
Residents packed the New Bight Primary School where a town meeting was held by the government and the Cat Island Partners group, to inform residents of the details of the proposed development and what the project is expected to mean for Cat Island.
“I came to listen to hear what you had to say about the project,” Prime Minister Ingraham said. “I don’t normally go around with developers and I don’t make announcements on their behalf.
“I came with this group tonight to listen to you because I am satisfied they have the means to do what they say they want to do and I wanted to hear the extent to which you are supportive of what they desire to do, because it is important for you in Cat Island to decide whether you want the development or not.”
The proposed Cat Island Golf and Beach Resort is set for construction on 1,906 acres of land previously owned by private developers adjacent to Fine Bay/Union Estates, according to Cat Island Partners principal David Southworth.
The developers will spend a total of $35 million for the sale of the property.
Phase I of the project calls for 223 low density, single and multi-family lots and a beach club. This phase, Mr. Southworth said, is expected to be completed in three years.
He added that his group is “under a Letter of Intent” with Marriot for the construction of a 200 room JW Marriot Resort Hotel, adjoining branded condo/hotel and a 5,000 sq. ft. boutique casino.
A “signed, sealed and delivered” deal with the PGA is also in play for the project, which Mr. Southworth said will result in the construction of a PGA Village with an 18-hole championship golf course.
The resort’s PGA Village; the third such village in the world, will include a PGA museum. Mr. Southworth explained that signed agreements with the PGA will go into effect upon final closing of the property in Cat Island.
Prime Minister Ingraham, who recently met with the president of the PGA, said the Association is anxious to announce the Cat Island project on CBS television during one of its yearly events, and that he is likely to accept an invitation extended to him by the president to attend the announcement.
The project, according to Mr. Southworth, is expected to create 244 full-time construction jobs and 937 full time jobs “from ongoing operations as the resort is built up.”
Mr. Ingraham said, “The development can only go if it has the necessary infrastructure to support it; whether that is essential work at the airport, essential upgrade of [the] electrical system, the solid waste disposal system and a long list of things.
“The developers are prepared, they tell me, to begin first on the basis that the government will live up to the commitments which we are making to the project. And so I want to assure you that we shall do all we can to cause this development to happen and happen in the shortest possible time.”
The Prime Minister indicated that the proposed development will be able to meet the employment needs of Cat Islanders, adding that the government has no great concern about the ability of Cat Island, Cat Islanders or other Bahamians to satisfy the employment needs and spin-off services that will follow from the project.
Responding to concerns expressed about the inclusion of a casino in the proposed development and how casinos might impact the religious nature of the island, Mr. Ingraham, who noted his dislike for casinos as a matter of personal choice, said the developers convinced him that the proposed boutique casino was essential for their development.
“I told them that there had been talk about another casino for Cat Island, but that on my watch there will only be one casino for Cat Island, not two,” he noted. “And so if they start as they say, they will have their casino and anyone else will get none while I am in office.”
In his closing remarks, the Prime Minister informed residents that the developers are in a position to purchase the land for the proposed development without having to borrow monies from the bank to do so.
“You’ve got a real live wire on your hand,” he advised. “I ask you to embrace it and appreciate it because I assure you, there are many other places in The Bahamas that would love to have what you are getting.”
Following the town meeting, Mr. Ingraham expounded upon the desire of his government with regard to the type of investors seeking to develop projects in The Bahamas.
“We are seeking to have monied people, not talking people,” he noted. “Monied people who are able to invest now at a time when it is as near to a recession in America as one can get, as opposed to developers who want a piece of paper from the Government, who want their picture in the paper with the Prime Minister saying they have signed a Heads of Agreement and who go out and market and shop around these things and say ‘I got this concession, that concession’.”
Upon the Government’s approval of the project, Mr. Ingraham said he expects work to begin within a matter of weeks.
He pointed out meantime that the Government is not going to approve another mega or large development for Cat Island.