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Rosewood Bermuda promises to better protect historic cemetery

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Mark Pettingill (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Miami-based owners of a luxury resort are expected to develop a “remediation plan” for a cemetery that sits in its golf course, a lawyer revealed yesterday.

Mark Pettingill, who represented Gencom at the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Losses of Land in Bermuda, said that the company only recently became aware of concerns about the graveyard.

He was hired by an island subsidiary of the hospitality investment and development firm that acquired Rosewood Tucker’s Point, now Rosewood Bermuda, in 2017.

The Commission heard earlier from a former trustee chairman of Marsden First United Methodist Church – which has several members with ancestry in Tucker’s Town – that the position of a driving range at the Tucker’s Point Golf Club meant that balls landed on the graves.

Mr Pettingill told the Commission that the resort owners were “a truly reputable and socially conscious company”.

He said that when the sale was made, they were “entirely unaware of the situation concerning the history” related to Tucker’s Town.

Mr Pettingill added that Gencom accepted historical wrongs in the US and Bermuda as well as “the impact that this has had on particularly black people”.

He said: “I’m pleased to inform you that they have had … conversations with the MP for the area, who is Anthony Richardson, with whom they are currently working to establish the best possible solution.”

Mr Pettingill added: “It is our intention, with the help of Mr Richardson, to put together a remediation plan at the site.“

He said that the company was prepared to work with the church and members of the public.

Mr Pettingill told the Commission that the resort owners were “about bringing proactive and positive change”.

He added that he would make sure steps were taken “expeditiously”.

Mr Pettingill said he hoped that recognition of historical wrongs would “bring solace and some comfort, and indeed some forgiveness, for the fact that it has been ignored for so long”.

Mr Pettingill added that Gencom was prepared to do what it could to “ameliorate the wrong as best as possible”.

The Bermuda Development Company Act (2) 1920 allowed a compulsory purchase order for a private company to take over Tucker’s Town for tourism development.

But Mr Pettingill told the Commission that it was his understanding that the resort owners became aware only in the past few months of the plight of people affected.

The lawyer said it would be an exaggeration to say that golf balls “showered” on to the cemetery.

But he added: “From my own perspective, one golf ball would be too many.”

The Commission heard this week from the Reverend Joseph Whalen, a pastor at Marsden First United Methodist Church, who said that the golf club agreed in 2009 to “consider a number of alternatives including additional netting”.

Dr Whalen said: “Nothing adequate has transpired – now there’s no net at all down there.”

Mr Pettingill said that the possibility of a public apology had not been discussed with the resort owners.

He added: “My clients, with respect, cannot sensibly apologise for the non-action since 2009.

“What they can do, and what I’m confident they will do, is recognise that it’s not right, that appropriate expeditious action wasn’t taken at the time.

“That is a recognition that I think is more significant.”

He added: “You can’t really apologise for something you didn’t do, but you can certainly recognise how horrible something was and how wrong that was and that you will do all you can to ensure that nothing like that happens again and you do all you can to ensure that you are going to do your level best to ameliorate the position.”

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Published November 20, 2020 at 2:17 pm (Updated November 20, 2020 at 2:16 pm)

Rosewood Bermuda promises to better protect historic cemetery

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