BEIRUT: Municipal officials squashed renewed excitement for a floating resort island off the coast of Jounieh Tuesday, telling The Daily Star they wouldn’t grant permission for the project.
Developers of the floating resort have been pushing for the project for more than a decade, but excitement reignited over the past several weeks when Beirut International Marine Industry and Commerce posted pictures in mid-May of the production plant in Tripoli with part of the island well underway. Big local blogs and online publications, such as No Garlic No Onions, Beirut Wired and Beiruting have all posted stories about the island in past two weeks.
But officials from the seaside city have rejected plans for the Jounieh Floating Island, coined the world’s first floating island, saying it is incompatible with the resort town.
“There is no place for the island in Jounieh,” Mayor Antoine Frem told The Daily Star, adding that the municipality did not have the capacity to accommodate the island’s guests. The Municipal Council had decided not to grant permission for the project, which developers planned to launch in Jounieh in summer 2015, Frem told The Daily Star.
“A project of this caliber needs to be constructed in an area that does not have a dense population,” Frem said, stressing that the project would require infrastructure and a large number of parking spaces.
The mayor also raised environmental concerns, pointing out that a mechanism for waste and sewage management had yet to be resolved.
Creator Abdullah Daou spent 15 years drawing up plans for the island, forming Beirut International Marine Industry and Commerce in 2003. Despite municipal pushback, the company says the island will still be ready in 2015.
Based on the Dhow-4 technology, the large structure with a main deck 1 to 2 meters above sea level is planned to contain a sea resort, hotel, gym, nightclub, restaurant and sporting activities, according to developers. The resort was planned to be a five-star hotel with a surface area of 3,400 square meters, including 64 rooms, 80 cabins and a rooftop restaurant.
Daou told The Daily Star that the company received legal permission for the project from the municipality when Juan Hbeich was mayor of Jounieh, a year before Frem was elected. After being elected in 2010, Frem revoked the approval and the file returned to the Higher Commission for Urban Planning.
Daou’s side of the story has it that approval was revoked in 2010 due to a decree issued by then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri ordering the cancellation of all construction permits issued before he took office.
“The Jounieh Floating Island company is not a part of any political conflict in Lebanon, and especially in Jounieh,” Daou said, urging Frem to have a serious look into the issue.
Daou hailed the effect of the floating island work on Lebanese economic and cultural values, extending an invitation to Frem to be a guest of the project. According to the company, Daou has spent 15 years developing the technology and holds patents for the design.