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Fairmont plans Turtle Hill development

An archive photo of the Fairmont Southampton highlighting the area of Turtle Hill - one of the areas slated for development under a 2009 Special Development Order. (Photo by Tamell Simons)

Protected green space around the Fairmont Southampton Hotel could be threatened under a Special Development Order (SDO) allowing the hotel to build, and sell, housing.

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) has issued a call on the public to speak up on whether they agree with tourism property being replaced with “real estate deals”.

The announcement came as BEST head Stuart Hayward said the group had learned of real estate works planned for “undeveloped space” near the iconic South Shore hotel.

“They got that SDO in 2009 — and it will expire unless they build within five years, which means the planning permission will expire in 2014,” Mr Hayward explained.

The sweeping SDO covers a roughly 90-acre swathe of property — and it allows for up to 130 residential units, he said.

Phase one proposes three three-bedroom villas, which Mr Hayward speculated was a matter of “keeping the SDO alive”.

However, BEST said the public should be aware that “segments of the now mostly-green hillsides and landscape surrounding Fairmont Southampton are eventually going to be transformed from green and open space to the concrete and tarmac of housing developments”.

Recalling the furore surrounding the 2011 SDO for Rosewood Tucker’s Point that included the building of residential units, Mr Hayward said the latest development indicated that, like Tucker’s Point, the Fairmont Southampton was “morphing from a tourist facility into a real estate agency and is selling off its property”.

Mr Hayward said BEST was having difficulty ascertaining where the hotel might be considering for initial development.

“The SDO gives them permission to build all over the hillside,” he said. “If they built all of them, it would transform that area, and unfortunately the majority are for sale to non-Bermudians.

“Only 22 are for Bermudians, and those would likely conflict with the oversaturation we have at the moment.”

With a stagnant local real estate market, Mr Hayward conceded that a full-scale development would be an unlikely sell.

The three units planned under Phase One of the proposal submitted to Planning appear to be designated for non-Bermudians.

The development allows for 130 units, 71 of which would be fractional units for tourists, with 37 residential villas for non-Bermudians ranging from two to four bedrooms, and two to three storeys.

The remaining 22, which would be set aside for the local market, are described as two-bedroom “town homes”.

“That certainly would do no favours to the Grand Atlantic site,” added Mr Hayward — referring to the failed affordable housing complex sitting idle along the South Shore in Warwick.

Much of the original SDO mentions Turtle Hill, just east of the Fairmont Southampton property.

Yesterday’s announcement from BEST reads: “On behalf of the Bermuda public, our government has entrusted hotel outfits with amenity open space, much of it with protective zoning. That open space has a value and benefit to all Bermudians, ranging from amenity space that is attractive and comforting to all residents — whether they be visitors or locals — to recreational- and even agricultural-use land.”

The order was also granted before the law was amended to require debate and approval by Parliament.

As a result, the statement adds, “there was no public involvement, consultation or discussion”.

“That means that another area we expected would remain mostly as green and open space is now to be covered with two- and three-storey buildings, including Turtle Hill, south of the hotel, north of the clubhouse and along South Road.”