Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The two hundred year infrastructure of Georgetown, the celebrated Garden City of the Caribbean in the days of sugar, is over run with incongruous land uses, poor sanitation and sidewalk vending. A new wave of development generated by the emerging off-shore oil and gas industry threatens to worsen these problems, but new inflows of capital also present opportunities for curing them by creating a tourism-oriented infrastructure. This potential benefit, however, will by-pass the city unless it is captured by a comprehensive list of coastal management policies and an appended integrated coastal zone management program.
This program is an attempt to coordinate the work of all agencies having land use decision-making powers over the coastal area of the country in order to ensure optimum protection and efficient management of this fragile ecosystem. Each policy is a summary of a problem and an intent to address it. Policy guidelines are every possible precaution that should be taken in pursuit of the cure.
Each land use control agency is required to ensure that its actions are consistent with the policies, a control process that is supervised by an umbrella agency like the EPA. The resulting process of coordination will ensure comprehensive coverage of the issues on the coast.
The zoning map is a physical plan of the subject area setting forth the uses that are allowed in a given zoning district. An overlay map shows specific access and other environmental issues to be addressed when a development is proposed. The combined maps constitute an integrated management plan.
An example of the specific issues to be fixed is the question of access to the littoral, that strip of land between the low and high water marks on which the public has an inalienable right to fish, walk and swim, but from which he is often excluded by the prerogative of private ownership.
Then there are access issues created by market forces, such as the exclusion of fish landing and boat building uses, scenic views and those that help maintain the maritime character of small commercial harbours. And the list of illnesses, policy treatments, and instructions for use goes on.
The integrated management plan is also an effective instrument for ensuring the complementarity of adjacent uses. For example, a legitimate water dependent use must, in the interest of a common tourism goal, be complementary to an upland hotel use.
The integrated management plan is also an instrument for catalysing development along the waterfront and its adjacent upland. If, in the context of the rising market for shore based hotel, residential, and office uses, waterfront land is upgraded from their existing water dependent/manufacturing status to water-enhanced uses, developers will find it to their benefit to move water dependent operations to less competitive land and re-use the vacated lots for higher value shore-based water-enhanced uses, all other things being equal.
Such conversions will stimulate large scale gentrification of adjacent upland where the new socio-economic climate will, as infrastructure itself, induce higher standards of services. The riverfront and an enhanced upland, will give the city the long overdue infrastructure upgrade.
An uncomplementary use was, however, inserted into this scenario when the government approved waterfront lands for shore base storage uses. Studies show that these types of uses and the measures for mitigating them conflict with pre-existing hotel redevelopment programs in the adjacent upland.
The shore base storage uses under discussion would have been denied under a policy that said “protect, enhance, and restore structures, districts, areas or sites that are of significance in the history architecture or culture of the city/state”.
But since there was no guiding policy, and the question of shore bases is paramount, a final decision on the lots could still be deferred to the agenda of an urgent meeting to look into the use of other riverfront lands for the establishment of a consolidated shore base for the Caribbean as a whole.
Meanwhile, citizens should use their pickets and pens to ensure that oil and gas pulls the city out of its 200 year past.