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9 Beaches lease vote delayed in the Senate

Sen David Burch

The new 9 Beaches lease will not be passed until 2011 after the Senate leader decided to delay the bill for a second time.After an Opposition and Independent Senator questioned various aspects of the 240-year lease National Security Minister David Burch, who heads the Senate, said the Government would address the issues and bring the lease back in February.It was the second time this month Sen. Burch suggested the Government “rise and report” on the lease, which is between the Bermuda Land Development Company under the Ministry of Public Works, and the IRC Sandys company.The House of Assembly has already passed the lease extension earlier this year, which smoothes the way for an $80 million project Tourism Minister Patrice Minors says is key to the Island's success as a tourist destination. The terms, if agreed, would see IRC Sandys pay $15 million over eight years and own the land for 240 years.However, yesterday Senators said they did not receive copies of two documents that accompany the lease extension the master development agreement and license to alter the lease until late Tuesday evening.Senators added that the documents created more questions than answers because there were discrepancies between the three documents when it came to key issues.United Bermuda Party Senator Jeanne Atherden questioned what the interest rates were, as some documents said seven percent while others said two percent above the Butterfield Bank's base rate.Independent Walwyn Hughes said terms of the Master Development Agreement did not match those in the sub lease and added that the MDA said construction must be finished by mid 2011, which he said was impossible.He added that the documents were not clear on whether a performance bond a written assurance that a sum of money will be provided if the developer fails to complete the project was included, and enforceable, within the clauses of the lease and other documents.He also noted the lease still contained spelling mistakes and other errors despite the Government delaying it last week to fix issues. “This is a long lease,” he said. “For 240 years the land will not be owned by the people of Bermuda and we need to be careful.”As questions continued to be asked former Attorney General, Senator Kim Wilson, said: “Why do people keep looking at me, I wasn't involved.”Earlier in the day Government Senator Cromwell Shakir told the Upper House that the Attorney General's chambers were not involved in the actual drafting of the lease, although the Solicitor General had been consulted in the early parts of negotiations.The comments from Opposition and Independent Senators echoed those made last week.During the previous sitting of the Senate Independent Senator Walwyn Hughes said he believed the lease is “tenant-centric” while United Bermuda Party Senator Michael Dunkley said be did not believe enough information had been provided and the Senate was being rushed into passing the bill.Yesterday, Sen. Burch told the Upper House he was making an “unusual motion” and recommended they deal with the lease in the future. He added: “I hope the developers do not lose their resolve, this process is for the benefit of us all.”After the Senate he said: “The issue is there are so many versions of these leases floating around that I did not feel comfortable that we push it through.“I consulted with the Minister responsible and the Premier and told them my thoughts. I am going now to meet the Minister and get us all around the same table so we can sort this out.”The Senate will not resume until February 9, 2011.