Senate: Job hopes over Grand Atlantic plan
The conversion of a failed condominium complex into a hotel will create at least 80 jobs, the Senate heard yesterday.
The comment came during debate on the Bermuda Housing Amendment Act 2018.
The legislation exempts the Bermuda Housing Corporation from stamp duty and land tax for the conversion of the Grand Atlantic complex in Warwick into a condo hotel.
Jason Hayward, a Progressive Labour Party senator, said the plan for the property would guarantee “at least” 80 jobs.
Mr Hayward said: “We can’t continue to sit back and allow that property to remain dormant.”
Vance Campbell, a PLP senator, said he felt there was a public misconception in that the role of the BHC was “solely to provide affordable, low-income housing to alleviate poverty”.
Mr Campbell said the law allowed the Government to fulfil its pledge to use the property “to stimulate our tourism product, increase visitor arrivals and opportunities, increase jobs for Bermudians, and receive the best financial return”.
Robyn Swan, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, said that her party supported the Bill “with caution”.
Ms Swan explained: “It is of great concern to myself and my colleagues who sit in the other place as to why this legislation appears to be rushed — tabled and debated in the same session.”
She asked why it seemed that no efforts had been made to transform the property in housing for seniors.
Mr Hayward said that it was easy to suggest that the property should be used for seniors’ housing.
He added: “It sounds good — but that is a proposal that the OBA did not implement during their time in power.”
Independent senator Michelle Simmons said that the property must be used. She said: “Taxpayers are on the hook.”
Ms Simmons said that it was important that the BHC continue to fulfil its core functions.
She added: “But this Act broadens its scope even further.”
Ms Simmons said she believed support needed to be thrown behind the Act, adding: “Nobody has come up with anything better at this point.”
Justin Mathias, an OBA senator, called the Grand Atlantic a “stain on the last PLP administration”.
Mr Mathias said the condo units had failed to sell because of an “oversaturation” in the housing market, as well as their price.
He questioned the rush behind the Bill.
Mr Mathias added: “Nobody has been briefed on this.
“If we are not informed, as legislators, then we are not doing our job, and we are not protecting the Bermudians that we serve. That is the real crux of this issue.”
He said that developers who had signed the original memorandum of understanding — the same group still involved in the project — had not previously been able to secure financing for the property.
Mr Mathias added: “We’re sitting here right now, passing this legislation, and we still don’t even know if these people have financing.”
He added the law meant that the BHC would be left footing the bill if the project failed.
Mr Campbell responded: “Yes, the risk falls on the BHC — but also the potential rewards.”
He pegged the potential return at $20 million.
Mr Campbell said that there had been a “lot of passion” from OBA senators during the debate.
But he added: “I haven’t heard an alternative to what is being put on the table today.”
The Bill was passed without objection. Legislation updating Bermuda Monetary Authority’s regulations to keep in line with the island’s budding fintech industry, creating a Royal Bermuda Regiment coastguard, and designating an official handheld breathalyser for roadside checkpoints was also unanimously backed by senators.