Bean overruled DAB in favour of PLP colleague
Opposition leader Marc Bean gave the go-ahead for a party colleague to build a five-storey apartment block on protected land — against the advice of technical experts and planning officials, The Royal Gazette can reveal.
Mr Bean, who was Environment Minister between November 2011 and December 2012, upheld an appeal by Opposition Senator Marc Daniels to build the four-unit dwelling complex in Sandys last year.
The site is on protected coastal reserve land; Sen Daniels original request for Planning permission was turned down by the Development Applications Board in October 2011.
Both the Director of Planning and the Planning Inspector later advised Mr Bean to turn down an appeal of the DAB decision by Sen Daniels.
However Mr Bean rejected the advice of technical experts in April 2012, and said that the scheme could go ahead.
It is the second time Mr Beans actions as Environment Minister have been called into question. On Monday, The Royal Gazette revealed hed upheld an appeal by the developers of a proposed orphanage on Spice Hill Road, Warwick claiming it was in the national interest — that decision was overturned following a judicial review.
The owners dropped their plans to develop the site and instead put the property on the market shortly after Planning permission was granted, highlighting as a selling point the fact that Planning permission had been obtained.
Mr Bean held the Environment portfolio until the Progressive Labour Party was defeated at last Decembers general election. He was subsequently voted in as leader of the Opposition — a candidacy that was publicly endorsed by Sen Daniels.
Sen Daniels had hoped to stand as a PLP candidate at last years election. In September 2011, he challenged sitting PLP MP Randy Horton to represent the party in Southampton West, but eventually lost out to the veteran. His political career took off again last December, when he was appointed to the Senate by Mr Bean shortly after he was elected leader of the party.
The two politicians share another link; Mr Beans wife, Simone Smith Bean, works as an attorney at Charter Chambers Bermuda — the law firm set up by Sen Daniels.
Contacted yesterday by The Royal Gazette, Sen Daniels pointed out that his property was private and not a matter of public concern. He added that his neighbours had not submitted any objections to his plans to develop the property and that the appeal process was conducted in accordance with the law and based on substantial arguments relating to private property rights, which also involved a historical analysis of the previous development of the said property.
Sen Daniels applied for planning permission to build on his 0.4-acre plot of land on Tribe Road No 6, Sandys, in March 2011. A five-storey apartment block was proposed for the site.
The DAB turned down the request because of a number of environmental concerns in October 2011 — one month before Mr Bean was appointed Environment Minister.
It noted that the application was environmentally, visually and aesthetically unacceptable and said its massing and scale is out of character for the site and surrounds and is not in keeping with the Bermuda image.
The DAB also noted the development would have a permanent detrimental impact on a coastal reserve conservation area and constituted overdevelopment, with a building and associated works that do not fit comfortably on the lot and which require various setback encroachments and excessive building heights.
And it expressed concern that safe vehicle manoeuvring for four cars has not been demonstrated and that the proposal fails to satisfy the 2008 Bermuda Plan.
The board also noted that the building and retaining walls encroach significantly into the coastal reserve conservation area, eliminating any opportunity for the long-term rehabilitation of the coastal habitats.
The objectives of coastal reserve zoning are to protect and conserve the ecological, natural and scenic qualities of coastal areas and to protect them from erosion, minimising development and maintaining their open, natural state.
Sen Daniels appealed to newly appointed Environment Minister Mr Bean to overturn the DAB ruling in December 2011. Later that month, Director of Planning James Goossens wrote to Environment Permanent Secretary Derrick Bins recommending that the application be refused and the appeal dismissed.
Planning Inspector Peter Cuming submitted his report in February 2012 following a site inspection, also recommending that the appeal be rejected.
Mr Cuming said the building, which he described as somewhat monolithic, would be the antithesis of the Bermuda image. The inspector also expressed concern that building on coastal reserve clearly would frustrate opportunities for the area to be rehabilitated.
I have taken into account all other matters raised ... but they are of insufficient weight to alter my recommendation. I recommend that the appeal be dismissed, Mr Cuming concluded.
But two months later, Mr Bean turned down the advice of his experts and instead sided with the appeal arguments put forward by Sen Daniels.
On April 2, 2012, in a letter to Sen Daniels confirming that his appeal had been upheld, Dr Binns wrote: While the Minister respects the assessment of the Inspector, in the instant case he considers that there are particular site circumstances that warrant a different weight being given to the issues.
The Minister is persuaded by the argument presented by the appellants that the visual impact would be acceptable owing to the substantial setback between the stories, the architectural articulation and proposed planting, all of which will give rise to a lively and interesting facade.
In terms of encroachments into the coastal reserve, the Minister has had regard to the excavations that have taken place making this the most logical area for development and considers that the proposed landscaping will enhance the remaining part of the reserve. In the absence of an approved development, it is doubtful whether the area would be rehabilitated as envisaged by the Inspector.
Pointing out that Mr Bean entirely supports the general thrust of policies in the 2008 Bermuda Plan, Dr Binns went on to say that the Minister considers that the special site circumstances of this case warrant an exception being made to other policy considerations in the 2008 Bermuda Plan.
Last night the One Bermuda Alliance condemned Mr Beans decisions to uphold the appeals of both Sen Daniels and the Spice Hill Road developers.
The decisions made by then-Environment Minister Bean to overturn his technical officers and the DAB remind us of so many PLP Government decisions that did not come across to the public as clean — that is decisions not tainted by questions and doubts about the real reasons they were taken, a party spokesman said.
The persistence of questions and doubts about favouritism and cronyism were part of the reason the PLP Government lost favour with the public, and Mr Beans handling of the Spice Hill matter contributed to that loss of confidence.
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