Senate approves revised SDO for Tucker’s Point
The Rosewood Tucker’s Point SDO was approved by the Senate last night after a hot-tempered debate in the Upper House.
Independent Senator Joan Dillas-Wright who opposed the order last week gave support to the scaled back development, giving Government the extra crucial vote it needed for the controversial Special Development Order to pass.
With Senate President Carol Ann Bassett also in favour, the SDO passed by seven votes to four; Independent Senator Walwyn Hughes voted no along with the three United Bermuda Party Senators.
Rival Senators clashed on several occasions during an emotional debate carried out as protesters blared horns outside the Cabinet building and sat in the public gallery alongside a large contingent of Ministers and backbenchers.
Sen Bassett had to repeatedly intervene to keep the peace as Progressive Labour Party Senator LaVerne Furbert made scathing comments about the SDO’s opponents while Government Senate leader David Burch sparred with UBP Senator Michael Dunkley.
The key moment came when Sen Dillas-Wright revealed she would vote in favour despite retaining some reservations about the proposal intended to save the resort from financial ruin.
Late in the debate, Sen Bassett indicated her own support, noting Tucker’s Point is now handing over 41 acres of land to the Government.
”I do believe the land Bermuda is getting is priceless,” said the President.
“It will enhance the tourism product if it’s dealt with as soon as possible. I would hate for Bermuda to get this land and in five years nothing is done to it.”
Sen Dillas-Wright and Sen Hughes’ refusal to support the SDO last week had prompted Junior Environment Minister David Burt to bring the debate to a halt with Government on the brink of defeat.
The Junior Minister returned with a toned down version last night, saying the sensitive Quarry Hill had been removed from the SDO, with development on Catchment Hill and Paynter’s Hill also cut back. The area of proposed development was reduced from 63 acres to 44.
Speaking immediately after the SDO passed, Tucker’s Point Resort chairman James Masters told The Royal Gazette: “It has been a long process and we can say Tucker’s Point is anxious to get back to its first priority, which is to look after our clients and people that come to Bermuda and we are very pleased that this will provide us with the financial stability to move forward.”
Environment Minister Walter Roban said: “I am pleased with the passing. I do believe that the work we did in replying to not only the Senators’ raised concerns but the people of Bermuda was very much evident tonight.
“It’s the beginning of the process and, for those who remained concerned about whatever happens, they have a process still ahead of them with future applications that go to the planning board.”
He added that any SDO in the future will have the same level of scrutiny, saying: “We are happy about that. I do believe the process we created has shown the value of it.”
Stuart Hayward, of Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, said: “I think what was the most adrenalin pushing for us was the degree to which the community became engaged in this.
“Not just the usual run of the mill people, but people who rarely show their faces or engage in the political process. They got aroused and got engaged. That’s healthy.
“Of course, we will have to sit and review what took place and to see what steps we might need to take next.”
Sen Dunkley said: “You state your case and let the chips fall where they may and that is it.
“I am disappointed that Government and the Independents didn’t see the point put across, but that is the way the system works and we just do our best to keep listening to the people and speaking on their behalf.”
The UBP had begun the evening by attempting to get the debate put back to next week, claiming Sen Dunkley and Senator Suzann Roberts Holshouser had been excluded from discussions and given barely any time to review the amendments.
“Up until last night at 5pm, we had received no information on a new order. Dribs and drabs started to come through,” said Sen Dunkley.
“Fifteen minutes ago I got the full order through. It’s wholly inappropriate to rush to judgement on this.”
Sen Hughes added: “A delay so we can absorb what’s been brought forward makes sense.”
Sen Burch responded angrily: “I really have to wonder whether I was here last week to listen to you people and heard what I heard.
“Today’s a different story. You were briefed by the Department on the changes. You said what you couldn’t agree with last week on the order. I believe all those things have been removed. Now you are saying something else.”
As other Senators moved to speak, Sen Burch continued: “I’m not finished yet. I have had your people send us e-mails.”
Sen Dunkley responded: “They are Bermudian people. Your people too, my brother.”
Sen Burch went on: “The standard e-mail. You read the first paragraph, they are all part of the same campaign.”
Raising his voice and pointing across the table to Sen Dunkley, the National Security Minister continued: “I still don’t think to my satisfaction your conflict of interest has been declared. You! You! President of Mid Ocean Club. You seem to think...”
“You are out of line,” Sen Dunkley hit back.
Sen Bassett then stepped in by calling a vote on whether the debate should continue, with the three UBP Senators and Sen Hughes outvoted by the five PLP Senators and the other two Independents.
The revised SDO is now expected to go before the House of Assembly at a special sitting on Monday, when MPs will be asked to approve the amendments.