Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Government says it is not considering putting up the world-famous Doctor's Cave beach in St James for divestment, despite reports that a $10-million offer is on the table.
The beach is now leased on a long-term basis to a private-sector entity for $50 per year and now it is interested in acquiring the property.
Responding to concerns that the beach will soon be divested and become exclusive to visitors, Local Government Minister Noel Arscott said that he was unaware of any proposal to buy it.
"I am not aware that an offer was even on the table. And in any case, there is a process which must be followed and the final decision would have to be a Cabinet decision," said the minister.
But The Sunday Gleaner has been reliably informed that the St James Parish Council has received a $10-million offer for the 200-metre beachfront property, which has been valued at $195 million.
Secretary manager of the council, Winston Palmer said that he was aware that an offer was made, but no decision has been made to divest the beach.
"We don't know of any proposed sale of the beach. What I am aware of ... a while back, we were offered $10 million for the purchase of the beach. That's not a sale. That's just an offer," emphasised Palmer.
He added that the parish council could not, by itself, authorise the sale of any such property.
"It could not be sold like that. It would have to be a Cabinet decision. Normally to sell a property like that, you would have to get the valuation and do the advertisement in the media. You would have to advertise for at least three consecutive days," explained Palmer.
"Then you would have to have the regular opening of the bids, after which it would be sent to the parent ministry, the National Environment and Planning Agency for comment, and then to Cabinet for a decision. In respect to that property, none of that process has taken place," he noted.
In the meantime, Sunday Gleaner sources say some members of the St James Parish Council are adamant that the $50-per-year lease should be voided. The beach is described as one of the most famous in the island and is one of several operated by private individuals and entities, as the Government does not have the administrative capacity to operate them.
But with the operators of Doctor's Cave charging $450 for access to Jamaicans and US$5 to visitors, some members of the council are arguing that the $50 annual lease is immoral and unfair.
The secretary manager of the council told The Sunday Gleaner that the lease agreement was signed by what was the Parochial Board decades ago and was automatically renewed in 1982 based on the terms and conditions.
The current lease expires in 2031 and unless the agreement is renegotiated before expiration, the lessee will be able to secure another 49 years to operate the facility.