Voice of Dickinson on SDO conspicuous by its silence
The Bermudian public have witnessed back and forth in the media between the developer of the Fairmont Southampton and various groups who oppose the new proposed special development order.
As this saga continues, we have seen a gradual breakdown of the discourse from negotiations with the public to thinly veiled threats from Gencom. I struggle to find many cases of developers closing an operating hotel, allowing it to deteriorate, failing to pay its staff redundancy, and then selling themselves as the heroes who will save our economy.
Gencom appears untrustworthy owing to the negligence of the Premier in presenting it to the public regarding to the SDO.
We all want the Fairmont Southampton to be reopened; however, I ask you, Bermuda: how much are we willing to give? Surely negotiating from our knees is not the way we wish to conduct ourselves. Nor is it the legacy we wish to leave our children.
I live in Southampton and my son will grow up directly underneath the Fairmont Southampton. How do I tell him that we Bermudians were convinced that our island was so undesirable that there is no one else who will invest in us? That we gave Gencom huge latitude to erect a concrete jungle, with units for which we don’t even know the selling rate?
We have had various leaders join the song of the Premier and the Progressive Labour Party that we should open our arms and welcome the new SDO, which rewards the company that intentionally allowed the hotel that makes up 30 per cent of tourism occupancy to break down.
I attended the town hall that the PLP’s Southampton MPs organised for the area residents to voice their concerns. Here is what I hoped to hear:
• A breakdown of why the increased SDO is needed, and how do the additional units make the project viable?
• How the increased traffic in the area would be addressed in detail? (Road fatalities are already a concern)
• Why solar panels are not implemented in such a large build?
• Some attempts to allay the fears of our environmental groups
• Waste management details, staff housing details and assurances to surrounding residents who may be affected by the construction
• General discussion and information shared surrounding the SDO
Instead, what I witnessed was a sales pitch better reserved for tourists. Selling the benefit of the hotel, which no one has objected to, while refusing to discuss the SDO — which is the community’s actual issue. Now I do not hold the developer completely accountable for this situation, as companies will always look out for their best interest. Gencom has managed to negotiate a great deal for itself, and those looking out for our interests have let us down.
Based on the condescending attitude displayed by the developer, it has the leverage and has been given assurances. Judging by how Gencom alluded to leaving Fairmont Southampton derelict if it does not receive this SDO, it seems that consultation with the residents is only a formality — that those negotiating on our behalf have already given the guarantee of the SDO being passed and the rest of us are just along for the ride.
Are all government MPs in favour of this SDO? I know one who is not: the former finance minister resigned over this deal, yet has been silent during this debacle. I ask MP Curtis Dickinson, the man who was almost our premier, to speak on this topic.
David Burt, the Premier, and his Cabinet do not seem willing to listen to the One Bermuda Alliance, residents or environmental groups. Maybe they will listen to someone within their own party. As a man who stood on integrity while challenging Mr Burt in a leadership contest, I hope to see that same integrity on display when the people truly need it.
• Dwayne Robinson is the One Bermuda Alliance’s approved candidate for Southampton East Central (Constituency 30)
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