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Scott demands minister explain go-ahead for development

Image of the final Azura Nautilus development as approved in April 2024 (Picture supplied)

A decision by a government minister to overturn the rejection by planning officials of a Warwick tourism development unpopular with neighbours has been challenged by a Progressive Labour Party backbencher.

Lawrence Scott, the MP for Warwick South East, said he had undertaken the rare move of protesting a decision by a party colleague because residents in Constituency 24, already weary of resort construction in the area, had voiced frustration at the approval this month of another large project after it was turned down last December by the Development Applications Board.

The developer for Nautilus, a tourism and condo block project by Atlantic Hotel, adjoining the neighbouring Azura Bermuda, insisted it would deliver a tourism win.

The project has drawn complaints from some neighbours in a heavily populated area of Warwick.

It stands on a stretch of the South Shore with tourism cachet for sweeping vistas and beach access, with the Bermudiana Resort to the west opening this year.

A representative for the developer behind Azura and Nautilus has countered objections by saying the site has long been zoned for tourism, with the Azura bringing in “exceptional” reviews.

Developers said last year that while they appreciated neighbours’ frustrations with construction, comments downplaying the project’s tourism impact had been factually inaccurate.

Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette on Friday that he had written to Vance Campbell, the Cabinet Office Minister, after the surprise revelation the day before.

He added: “I have reached out to the minister asking for the data behind his decision.

“Once I have sight of that, I want to set up a meeting with the area residents and the minister, so that he can hear their concerns directly.

“I found out when I read the Gazette, having been the MP of the area since 2012, the MP that fought against the development under the One Bermuda Alliance government that gave them the go-ahead for what they have built now.

“In the beginning, I felt comfortable that the area residents would be treated well and the developer and hotel owner would be good corporate citizens.”

Residents’ complaints have ranged from allegations of structural damage to homes from construction vibration, to early morning noise from the site, and the soiling of roofs and water tanks by sand billowing off the property.

Mr Scott maintained that while some people had been compensated, not everyone had their bills covered.

He said he had asked Mr Campbell for the details for his April 3 decision, which cited the project’s tourism success, with more economic growth and jobs to come.

“I have asked for the additional data that he relied on that he feels justifies this, or that he believes the Development Applications Board overlooked.”

He added: “Residents are not against development for promoting the tourism industry. Remember, the area is known as the Gold Coast.”

The package of tourism developments at the site fall under Azura Bermuda, with the Nautilus under Atlantic Hotels Limited and Azura under Clearwater Development Limited.

In response to the MP’s concerns, a representative told the Gazette yesterday that Azura and Nautilus were recognised as tourism developments by the Department of Planning and the ministries of tourism and finance.

They said complaints about construction were “not fully accurate”, with access to the projects taken across entry drives owned by the developers.

Comments that the new buildings amounted to condos rather than a hotel were “either self-serving or reflect an unwillingness to do the most basic research”, with the Azura Hotel “thriving and growing”.

Nautilus was to bring in “vitally needed development revenues” to be reinvested into amenities for a four-star resort, including expanding the existing Azura kitchen.

Also in the works were “a stunning new indoor restaurant with views over the ocean and reefs”, and a new saltwater ocean pool.

The resort will get a new beach bar, new wellness centre with fitness areas and a spa pool, an expanded lobby and concierge area, and more executive offices with staff-break areas.

The developer said Nautilus, including the final Nautilus 2 and Nautilus 3 recently approved by planning, including one via appeal to the minister, were “no larger than originally anticipated”.

“It has been built over a carefully planned schedule and business model to allow for a conservative capital structure with very limited debt that will ensue long-term financial viability and sustainability for the full Azura/Nautilus hotel.”

About 95 per cent of the total resort was zoned tourism, with no work proposed for areas not permitted for development.

“The site naturally is almost entirely soft material, the excavation of which — in conjunction with Bermuda’s South Shore breezes — does necessarily cause some airborne dust and sand.”

However, the developer said the property’s geology meant “no need for hammering of hard rock”, with no piles driven.

Engineers were said to have “repeatedly“ told Atlantic Hotels there was no concern of cracks to adjacent structures.

“A core part of our company policy at all projects is to work as closely and constructively as possible with neighbouring property owners.

“We have previously given all neighbours of Azura and Nautilus substantial personal attention on any concerns and have made payments as appropriate, after consideration of independent expert advice where required in some cases, during the development of both projects to address roof and tank cleanliness concerns.”

Several neighbours were said to have been paid for roof and tank cleaning. Some requests had been turned down after independent review, including complaints of bacteria in tanks that were described as unconnected to the project.

“The sand and dust produced at Nautilus was reduced dramatically in 2023 and has been reasonably limited in 2024.”

The developer was said to have acted “in good faith and as good neighbours to the best of their abilities”.

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Published April 22, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 23, 2024 at 8:13 am)

Scott demands minister explain go-ahead for development

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