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SDO: energy consumption and renewable use need addressing – report

Sketches released by Westend Properties to show the planned setting of buildings proposed as part of a special development order for the Fairmont Southampton resort, in relation to the overall property. The company said the illustrations do not reflect the ultimate architecture of the units

Consideration should be given now to energy conservation and efficiency as the owners of the Fairmont Southampton propose to add up to 261 units at the resort, a government department advised.

The remarks were in response to the request for a special development order by Westend Properties, which sought in-principle approval last month to potentially build 114 tourism and 147 residential units.

A submission from the Department of Energy said there were concerns "that the proposal does not properly consider measures to reduce energy consumption or incorporate renewable energy systems, which is a requirement under the International Energy Conservation Code overlay to the existing building“.

It addressed elements of an environmental impact statement that accompanied the application, which said: “There is no standard, nor policy document, to which energy usage and sustainability must comply.

“Therefore, the capacity of the local energy infrastructure to absorb the additional demand that would be placed on it with the proposed master plan is used to frame this assessment.

“The Bermuda Government has set an aspirational goal with regards to renewable energy targets with the Integrated Resource Plan going into effect in 2019.”

The Department of Energy’s response explained: “There is, in fact, clear policy and guidelines governing energy use and design for that contained in the IECC overlay.

“That must be taken into consideration even at this stage, as the deployment of solar PV [photovoltaics], solar thermal and fenestration guidelines will certainly have an effect in respect of planning.

“If conservation and efficiency matters are not considered even at this early stage, we are concerned that they will remain unaddressed, which would be a missed opportunity.

“The developer should be considering these matters at this stage, and indeed throughout the project, to ensure efficient operations as the project is executed.

“This will save the hotel a great deal in operating costs, and can only make the villas and residential units more attractive to prospective buyers given our high energy costs.”

The response cited the environmental impact statement, which said: “… there is currently no regulatory requirement for developers to install renewable energy.”

It was submitted by the Department of Energy: “While this may be true in respect to regulations, it is short-sighted and does not address the seriousness of the energy situation.

“With the advent of mass adoption of EVs [electric vehicles], and the likelihood of more being used particularly by this calibre of clientele, we strongly suggest that the conduit and capacity is installed to best ‘future-proof’ the development and allow for the eventuality of EVs.

“It seems that there should be some quid pro quo in that if this scale of development is permitted, then the developer should be making every possible effort to ensure the sustainability of the project.

“Furthermore, it should be noted that this should not be seen as an onerous burden to the project but rather an enhancement that is more likely to increase the attraction and value of the units.”

The energy department’s May 11 response also said there was no indication that Belco was consulted.

Although it was appreciated that “rigour” was applied to compile the impact statement, the submission added: “Our concern is the unforeseen costs should major upgrades be precipitated by this development.”

Belco was asked last week if it was consulted by representatives of the resort and whether it had considered the impact of the proposed additional units on the island’s power infrastructure.

Wayne Caines, the utility company’s president, said: "Belco is committed to providing safe and reliable electricity to meet our customers’ needs.

“All customers wishing to connect to the grid will need to adhere to Belco’s service rules and technical requirements.

“We take our responsibility to ensure the confidentiality of our customers seriously and cannot comment on specific discussions.”

Paget lights feature in highways feedback

Recommendations from the highways section of the Department of Works and Engineering in response to a requested special development order for the Fairmont Southampton included altering the phasing of Paget lights to accommodate increased traffic.

It was also suggested that consideration should be given to the South Road S-bend near the resort.

In a response uploaded to the planning department’s website, the highways section pointed out that major junctions and developments such as hotels, grocery stores, schools and gas stations should be taken into account for their impact on traffic.

It said: “There are no alternative routes to avoid our two main routes into Hamilton or to head back west to Dockyard.

“Traffic delays, queuing time are already at a disadvantage when coming from the west.”

The response suggested improvements could include setting up a traffic light at the hotel access road and Lighthouse Road to join Middle Road.

It added: “Paget Light at Middle Road and South Road traffic-light phasing will need to be adjusted for the increase in am and pm rush hour traffic.

“Consideration should be given to the South Road sharp and steep S-bend along the South Road town homes.

“Improvements could include to adjust the tightness of the bend by straightening it out and adjusting the road elevations.

“That particular S-bend has been the cause of many accidents.”

The response also said the hotel could consider a shuttle service to specific locations to reduce the number of trips generated by people populating the proposed tourism and residential units, which could number up to 261.

Separately, a response to the SDO request from the terrestrial conservation section of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommended that “specific conservation gains should be identified under the proposed development order”.

Options put forward in the DENR-TCS submission included a conservation management plan for “the coastal hillside slope south of South Road, and peninsula south of Whaler Inn”.

The response said this would include the removal of all invasive plant species and the implementation of a “robust endemic and native replanting and augmentation plan”.

It added: “The area has nesting longtails, complex geology and a significant quantity of quality vegetation.

“This area is the principal area where there would be a specific ‘conservation gain’ proposed under this project; it has high-value biodiversity, aesthetics and natural history value.

“Regrettably, if immediate action and prolonged management is not undertaken in this area, the relic endemic and native vegetation as well as the geology itself would be overwhelmed by invasive species.”

The DENR-TCS response also highlighted that the Fairmont Southampton golf course was home to the second-largest managed population of bluebirds — an uncommon native species of special importance — in the island’s western parishes.

It said there were 13 artificial nest boxes which were either occupied or being explored by young pairs of bluebirds for nesting.

The response explained: “Over the previous couple of years, the nests on this property have produced approximately 25 to 30 successfully fledging chicks per year, contributing significantly to the continued survival of the bluebird on Bermuda.

“The fact that all present nest boxes are already being nested in or prospected indicates that the property and golf course could support a larger and more stable population.

“DENR-TCS recommends that the existing nest-box sites be formally maintained under a voluntary conservation management plan and that this plan would include the installation of an additional eight to ten nest boxes in appropriate locations.”

It added that there was "every reason to expect that a healthy robust population of bluebirds will continue to survive on the golf course area with sympathetic management and purposeful human assistance“.

Westend Properties was invited to comment for this article but none was received by publication time.

Feedback from the public on the proposed SDO can be submitted to the Department of Planning by the end of today.

To read the response documents in their entirety, click on the PDFs under “Related Media”.

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Published May 29, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 29, 2023 at 8:08 am)

SDO: energy consumption and renewable use need addressing – report

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