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Sand theft precautions at Harmony Cove megaresort site

Concerns about preventing sand theft and squatting have surfaced on lands set for resort development next year by government-led Harmonisation Limited.

The company is seeking drones and security guards to canvas the 2,400 acres of land at Harmony Hall in Trelawny.

“There is a pervasive concern regarding theft of sand on the beachfront located along the northern boundary of the property,” according to a request for proposal for security services by the authorities seen by the Financial Gleaner.

“There is a secondary concern regarding the potential for squatter settlements, especially on the southern, isolated end of the property, and on the lot in the town of Duncans,” it said.

The company scheduled a site visit on Tuesday, May 30, for prospective bidders. Calls to Harmonisation”s Executive Director Dr Lorna Simmonds unanswered.

The resort lands were initially conceptualised as an integrated casino resort with hotels and a marina, to be called Harmony Cove.

However, Jamaica has failed to secure the capital needed to fund the development, which has been in limbo for many years.

The removal of commercial loads of sand from beaches is a criminal offence, punishable by fines of about $50,000 or imprisonment. But the problem persists.

Just last January, the police in Portland were investigating claims of sand theft at Winnifred Beach. But the largest disclosed investigation occurred in 2008, when an estimated 500 truckloads of sand were removed from a Coral Spring property in Trelawny. The National Environment & Planning Agency warns that sand removal can erode beaches and threaten coastal resources.

The Harmony Cove project is a 50-50 venture between the Jamaican government and Tavistock Jamaica Inc, the local arm of Bahamas-based but Florida-headquartered Tavistock Group. Jamaica’s interest is represented by Harmonisation Limited, which is held by Development Bank of Jamaica Limited and the National Housing Trust.

The Harmony Hall property is hilly and wooded, with lands rising from sea level to about 1,000 feet, according to the Harmonisation document. The property is divided into two sections, separated by the North Coast Highway.

No squatters are currently on the premises, but there has been unauthorised crop farming in the past. There are few barriers or fences to prevent access to the property.

Now the company wants to reduce the chance of infractions as it prepares for development.

“At present, there is moderate exposure to squatting, and moderate exposure to theft,” it added.

Harmonisation wants “maximum” coverage from the security arrangements it is procuring, and that entails on-site security guards, who themselves are to be trained in operating the remote security systems. This includes operating CCTV cameras, drones capable of withstanding the high wind speeds of the area to be deployed to obtain aerial footage of all areas on the property, solar-powered motion detectors, and alarms.

The development should start next year, according to the latest update.

“There has been limited development of the property at Harmony Hall, as the project currently primarily performs a custodial function. However, development is likely to commence in 2024,” the bid document noted. “As such, it is of paramount importance that the site is maintained in pristine condition.”

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