MPs pass Tucker's Point SDO
How MPs voted
PLP: Marc Bean, Glenn Blakeney, Derrick Burgess, Dale Butler,
Neletha Butterfield, Paula Cox, Zane DeSilva, Ashfield DeVent, Lovitta Foggo, Wayne Furbert, Randy Horton, Terry Lister, Patrice Minors, Wayne Perinchief, Walter Roban, Michael Scott, Alex Scott, Dame Jennifer Smith, Michael Weeks.
BDA: Shawn Crockwell
Independent: Darius Tucker
UBP:John Barritt, Grant Gibbons, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Louise Jackson, Trevor Moniz, ET (Bob) Richards, Cole Simons, Charles Swan, Kim Swan
BDA: Donte Hunt
Absent: El James, Dennis Lister, Walter Lister (PLP) Mark Pettingill (BDA)
The controversial Rosewood Tucker's Point special development order was this morning passed, paving the way for the resort to start building new homes and an extra 70 hotel rooms.
After a near seven-hour debate in the House of Assembly which finished just before 3am, MPs voted 21 to 10 to pass the draft SDO, which paves the way for development on land at Quarry Hill and Paynter's Hill in Hamilton Parish.
Environment Minister Walter Roban kicked off the debate claiming the success of the five-star resort was vital to the Island's future, and a succession of Progressive Labour Party MPs followed, all giving their backing to the first SDO to be debated in the House of Assembly.
The UBP claim Tucker's Point is close to insolvency and Government's move would effectively bail the resort out. The UBP's Trevor Moniz said he understood the resort had a debt of about $150 million.
The SDO means developers can build an additional 78 private homes and 70 hotel rooms on the 240-acre Tucker's Point site, subject to final approval from the Department of Planning and the Development Applications Board.
Mr Roban told the House the failure of Tucker's Point would make it more difficult to attract investors in Bermuda's tourism product. He explained the potential effect on tourism posed “a considerable risk for our Country”, meaning an SDO would be in the public interest.
And he said environmental worries raised by BEST, the National Trust and Buy Back Bermuda would be mitigated as far as possible.
Veteran UBP MP John Barritt raised the suggestion the SDO might be irrelevant anyway, because Tucker's Point and the Mid-Ocean Club has a covenant preventing any development in that area.
Mr Barritt said of the SDO: “Really what we are doing is getting Tucker's Point out of a financial hole, and the impression I get is that they're close to insolvency.
“If we have the money I'm sure we would like to bail out everybody who's in trouble, but I'm not sure this is the right approach.”
Earlier, a string of Government MPs gave support for the expansion.
Bermuda Democratic Alliance MP Shawn Crockwell also spoke favourably, with those in support appearing to outweigh the naysayers in the United Bermuda Party, who echoed the concerns of environmentalists.
Tourism Minister Patrice Minors said Tucker's Point had won numerous awards but its owners need the development to meet their financial obligations.
“I would hope that the individual on the street who would read the paper tomorrow and see we have approved this legislation will see the benefit of it,” said Mrs Minors.
“It's not showing particular favouritism to Tucker's Point but looking at the whole tourism industry.”
Bermuda National Trust has said it is extremely alarmed the project was earmarked for a large swathe of pristine land home to wildlife.
Shadow Environment Minister Cole Simons, who led the UBP's response, said: “Let's not underestimate the value of our caves and the value of the flora and fauna. Our tourists come here to see that.”
Opponents to the development have also pointed out it would take place on land mostly black families were removed from in the 1920s to promote tourism.
Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda has described the move as a slap in the face to the descendents of those families.
Before the debate, MPs passed amendments to legislation meaning all SDOs will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny in future.
Mr Roban said until now Government has been accused of using SDOs as a backdoor method of circumventing the normal planning process.
Last night, PLP MPs said the new process demonstrated their commitment to transparency.