Sandyport Threatens To Sue Coalition
The Coalition To Save Clifton Cay, a local group that fights against environmental degradation, is facing a lawsuit from the Sandyport developers.
The attorneys for Sandyport Developers, Emerick A. Knowles, has written to Rev. C. B. Moss, the Coalition's Chairman and Senate Vice President, claiming that his group defamed the developers when it issued a release to the press dated February 6, 2004.
Mr. Knowles warned in the letter, dated February 17, that unless the Coalition apologized in the press within seven days, "we will commence proceedings as indicated, without further notice."
Mr. Knowles said it was incorrect for the Coalition to report that it has proof that no environmental impact study was submitted or approved at the start of the project. The Coalition invited Sandyport owner Hugh Buckner to provide the study for public inspection.
A government report obtained by the Journal last week states that no environmental impact assessment was carried out, the proof that the Coalition has been pointing to.
However, Mr. Buckner told the Journal that he did complete the study and that that study showed that his development would not harm the environment in any significant way.
A Ministry of Financial Services and Investments document dated December 17, 2002, said, however, that, "Regarding the environmental impact of the Sandyport Development, the [Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission] has advised that the Sandyport Development was approved prior to the creation of the BEST Commission and thus no Environmental Impact Assessment would have been done.
"Various Government agencies would have issued permits for work to begin. The BEST Commission recommends that a review be done of the conditions listed on the perms issued by the Department of Physical Planning and Ministry of Works and Utilities."
It was at this time that the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments invited the BEST Commission in close collaboration with the Ministry of Works and Utilities and Department of Physical Planning to undertake a full review of the Sandyport Development and to make recommendations as to any mitigating measures that would ensure environmental integrity.
Mr. Buckner has consistently reminded that he has received all of the approvals and permits from the relevant government agencies for his multi-million dollar project, which received high praises from Prime Minister Perry Christie who opened the latest phase of the development last November.
Mr. Knowles' letter to the Coalition said, "The statements were false in that the relevant authorities have approved the works being carried on at Sandyport including the work being carried on in respect of Phase V."
It also said that there are no health violations at Sandyport.
However, the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission said in a document dated September 23, 2003 that, "The presence of solid waste and its reuse for fill at the site is a violation of the Environmental Health Act and posses a potential health problem as the decomposition of the trash will result in flammable gases seeping from the ground."
That document came as a result of a report commissioned by the National Economic Council.
Mr. Buckner suggested late last week that the government documents may not be authentic. He said a few days earlier that the information may be erroneous.
Mr. Buckner's attorney said in the letter to Rev. Moss and the Coalition that the statements the group made in their press release were understood by ordinary persons to mean that: The Sandyport Development and the works being carried out at Sandyport are being done with no concern for the environment.
It continued that the statement by the Coalition also implies that Sandyport is carrying out works without appropriate approvals and in contravention of the law; and that the works of Sandyport are creating health hazards and are damaging to the residents of Sandyport and those living nearby.
The letter said, "Our clients are entitled to claim against you and members of the Coalition, general damages as well as aggravated damages for false statements appearing in the press statement and to obtain an injunction against you and members of the Coalition to restrain you and them from making any further statements damaging to our clients' reputation and business."
The letter to Rev. Moss also said, "For the purpose of such proceedings we will require that you provide us the names and addresses of all members of the Coalition and should you fail to provide this information to us, we will obtain an Order from the Court to compel you to do so."