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BEST: It’s not too late to stop the work at Grand Atlantic

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainaibility Taskforce is calling for further development of the Grand Atlantic housing project to be halted.

In a letter sent yesterday to Premier Paula Cox, the group list environmental and economic concerns about the project, including the affect of the recently announced 100 percent financing for the units.

“We feel compelled to request that the condominium development at Grand Atlantic be suspended until the government informs the public with a comprehensive impact statement on the financial, economic, social and environmental implications of this project,” BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward said.

“This must be done to avoid the entire area being decimated at public expense.”

While the Grand Atlantic Project was originally announced as a combination of affordable housing and a hotel development, BEST said the developer has since been released from the requirement to build a tourism facility, despite the land being zoned for Tourism Development, along with coastal and woodland reserve.

“The mixed use designation had meant essentially that now housing units could be built on land previously reserved for tourism development,” the Mr Hayward

“However, as at Palmetto Bay and Tucker’s Point, the hotel room aspect seems to have been scuttled.

“This is not the first of these public/private partnerships that have been promoted to boost tourism but fall short of developing the tourism aspect.”

Mr Hayward also said that the partnership was in name only, with the developer being paid to construct the units, while the government buys, markets and sells them while arranging financing.

“If they are to be sold at below market value, it is the public who will take the hit,” he said.

“While a compassionate community would support subsidies for hard-working, low income, first time home buyers, it is an abuse of public largesse for the government to be either subsidising speculative buying and selling of housing as happened at Loughlands, or acting in financial beneficence to enable existing homeowners to ‘downsize’ or ‘upgrade.’

“This is an inappropriate use of public funds, especially when funds for social programmes for seniors and needy families, and for public safety/policing are being cut.”

While Government has said that it intends to continue with phase two of the housing project, Mr Hayward questioned the logic if Government is needing to seek special financing arrangements to sell the first set of units.

“Can we afford to repeat this with the remaining two phases? What evidence is there that the sale of the next two phases will be any different?” Mr Hayward asked.

He further questioned why, as of February 29, the site plans for Phase one and two of the project are not available for viewing at the Department of Planning, or if planning permission was granted to excavate a path to the beach or build the breakwater.

“These are important questions that should not go unanswered,” Mr Hayward said. “The scale of this project with its clear financial, economic, social and environmental impact effects not only the neighbours and the residents of Warwick Southeast but all of Bermuda.

“The gaps left by these unanswered questions only erodes confidence in any official statement being made about the project.

“We are asking that the building at the Grand Atlantic be suspended and a moratorium imposed on further housing development at the side until the people of Bermuda have answers to these questions.”

In 2007, Government granted Atlantic Developers a Special Development Order (SDO) for the South Shore, Warwick site for a 220-room hotel. Two years later, Premier Ewart Brown announced the Grand Atlantic Project which was set to include 125 affordable housing units and a 100-room hotel on the site of the former Golden Hind resort.

BEST, along with environmentalists including David Wingate, expressed concern about the proximity of the development to a cliff, but developer Gilbert Lopes responded that geological surveys had been carried out, proving the safety of the site.

The first 24 housing units on the site were completed late last year, and while as of February none of the units had sold, Government recently announced that 100 percent financing on the units would be made available through a partnership between the Government and Butterfield Bank.

The second phase of the project, another 27 units, are expected to be completed this summer, while third phase, 27 more units, are scheduled to be finished next year.

Making the announcement, Public Works Minister Michael Weeks said that the planned hotel “would be considered once all the units are done.”

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Published March 16, 2012 at 9:45 am (Updated March 16, 2012 at 9:44 am)

BEST: It’s not too late to stop the work at Grand Atlantic

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