Corporation chiefs defend approach to proposed waterfront development
City Hall bosses have broken their silence over the waterfront redevelopment project and defended their actions which led to selecting developers Allied Development Partners and awarding them a 262-year lease.
In a fresh public relations initiative aimed at clearing up “misinformation” on the project, Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge and Councillor Keith Davis gave a series of media interviews yesterday.
The pair told The Royal Gazette that all documents concerning the project had been provided to Government by June this year.
And they defended the project's Request for Proposal process, which has come under some criticism because of a short time frame for responses and a lack of detail (see separate story).
They reported that the 262-year lease of 26 acres of City waterfront was signed on December 13, 2012 — four days before the general election.
And they said they had tried, unsuccessfully, for nine weeks after the election to bring the new administration up to speed with the waterfront project.
Asked why the City had delayed handing over the lease to the new administration, the Mayor said that their position had been that the lease was between two parties and there “may have been third party interests that could cause legal issues for ourselves.
“Once we were comfortable and the developer was comfortable about it, we decided to hand it over. And certainly working with Government, we saw that their intentions were good. We gave them what they asked for — even though they are technically not a party to it.”
Mr Davis said that their earlier decision not to hand over the lease was consistent with past practice at City Hall. When asked whether they felt that Government should have access to such documents as a matter of principle, Mr Davis said: “It's consistent with the conventional way City Hall has done business for many years. With the relationship between ourselves and the commercial party, it was the right thing to do. We maintained the position that was consistent with the relationship that we had formed with the development partners and their subsequent partners.”
The pair said that a resolution approving the arrangement was passed in October last year.
But asked why the general public was not informed by City Hall that the waterfront had been leased, Mr Davis said: “The general public are not party to any of the agreements that City Hall enters into from time to time — the building of our Works Depot, the leasing of properties that we own — the general public is not party to that process as it occurs.”
He agreed that City Hall did not specifically say at the January 28 press conference that the property had already been leased.
“We didn't specify lease, but that was part of the agreement with Allied that they enter into a lease agreement and a development agreement.”
He said while the “lay person” may have been surprised at news of the lease, it was not unprecedented that leases are negotiated and agreed long before they are announced.
“Historically, you can go back and you will see that these announcements came far later than the actual agreements were agreed upon.”
The pair said that the full council had unanimously approved a resolution of the “entire process” including the lease.
The Mayor said other agreements — such as the lease of Morgan's Point — had not been made available to the public.
And he rejected a suggestion that his Council was reneging on election promises that it would be transparent and accountable, saying that they had immediately set about improving the Code of Conduct with a request to Government to enshrine it in legislation.
The Mayor would not discuss an unresolved dispute with the Ombudsman who has launched an own motion investigation into City Hall because the matter is before the courts.
Ombudsman Arlene Brock is citing the Mayor and his Deputy for contempt, alleging that they are not cooperating with her investigation.
City Hall's PR blitz also involves an “open letter” to the community (www.cityhall.bm), which can be read in today's paper on page 7.