Government “inclined” to approve Nygard lease
By Jeffery Todd
The Nassau Guardian Business Editor
The government is “inclined” to grant a well-known Lyford Cay resident a lease for accreted land following a possible environmental survey, according to the community’s chairman.
In a letter dated February 18 to members of the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association, which has been obtained by Guardian Business, Philip Dunkley said that the government has been in negotiations with Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
The billionaire has applied for a lease from government on reclaimed land on Nygard Cay, otherwise known as Simms Point. Dunkley explained that the government “may be inclined to accede to Mr. Nygard’s application” in the near future.
“The government has, however, indicated that it will be more vigilant to prevent any future reclamation of lands adjoining Nygard Cay,” the letter stated.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the POA continues with its efforts on behalf of the Lyford Cay community on this issue, but fully understands that those members whose private interests are directly affected may wish to take independent action to protect their rights.”
The announcement is sure to raise a few eyebrows in one of the most affluent communities in The Bahamas. It could also bring to an end a contentious issue that has been in and out of the courts for years.
Nygard acquired the most western tip of the gated community back in 1984. Since then, the property has expanded in size by spreading out into the ocean. Whether this growth was natural or engineered has remained a contentious issue among Lyford Cay residents.
According to a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court on April 6, 2011, Tex Turnquest, then director of the Department of Lands and Surveys, informed Nygard that the government expected him to reinstate the coastline of the property to its condition at the time of the 1984 deed.
“Further, the plaintiff was informed that the government intended that the cost of this work, estimated at approximately $2.75M, would be borne by the plaintiff,” the court document reads.
As of November 2009, more than 70 percent of Nygard’s mansion was destroyed by fire, although foundation piles and accreted land remain in place. Government officials alleged that the accreted lands had formed as a result of the “strategic placement of groins and docks”.
Nygard’s attorneys, however, argued that the additional land formed as a result of the gradual and imperceptible deposit of materials from the ocean onto the land.
“It has not formed as a result of any works carried out by the plaintiff for the purpose of reclaiming land from the sea,” the court continued. “In the premises, the lands that have formed at the shoreline of the property have been added to the freehold of the property and the plaintiff is and has been since their formation the owner in fee simple of those lands, by virtue of the doctrine of accretion.”
The fashion mogul sought a declaration that the lands have become part of the freehold property.
In another court document filed on May 19, 2011 in the Supreme Court, former Chairman of the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association Christopher Hampton Davies said coastal works have been performed by Nygard and had a “deleterious effect on the neighboring coastal lots”.
“In particular, the seemingly incessant dredging works performed at the instigation of the applicant in the seabed adjacent to Nygard has resulted in substantial interruption of the flow of sand beach, with erosion effects to small coves and beaches adjacent to some of the coastal lots of Lyford Cay nearby,” the court document reads.
He alleged that the expansion encroaches on the rights of members by making it difficult to navigate the waters nearby.