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Plans for residential units get go-ahead

Grant Gibbons

Plans to build additional residential units on the Pink Beach property have been given the go-ahead despite objections.

Sardis Development Ltd had sought permission to erect ten residential units, a sewage treatment facility and parking spaces on agriculture reserve land on the Smith’s property, drawing criticism from neighbours and the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST).

The developer had stated the residential units were intended to “support the viability” of its $51.4 million hotel project, which will feature a new 34-room boutique hotel, and claimed the agricultural site was of “below-average quality”.

While the Development Applications Board had denied the application, acting Minister of Home Affairs Grant Gibbons upheld an appeal by the developers against the board’s decision.

In an appeal decision, included in the planning documents, Dr Gibbons wrote: “The board refused planning permission for reasons that the proposed residential development was not permitted on land zoned agricultural reserve and does not comply with the objectives for the agricultural reserve zones and would result a loss of agricultural reserve.

“An additional reason for refusal pertained to the sewage treatment plant’s proximity to neighbouring residences.

“However, as part of the appeal, the appellant proposed a relocation of the plant, therefore it’s not a matter under consideration for the purposes of this appeal.”

While Dr Gibbons noted the concerns expressed by the neighbours, the planning inspector’s report and BEST he said there were “additional factors of national importance” such as the economic impact of the project.

“First, for decades Bermuda’s economy had two pillars: international business and tourism,” he wrote.

“Tourism has suffered tremendously since the late 1980s and efforts to revitalise this key industry are supported by developments of the type made by Sardis Development Ltd. The proposed rental units will improve the viability of the new Pink Beach resort by providing a more constant revenue stream than the one which relies on visitors to the Island.

“Secondly, the Bermuda Government has prioritised and actively sought new hotel development. Such developments create jobs, most immediately during construction but also in the ongoing operation of the hotel. As such, I note the minister responsible for tourism supports this proposal.”

Dr Gibbons also noted that the developer had offered to expand woodlands reserve and coastal reserve areas on the property by 98,920 square feet in exchange for permission to build on the 39,654 square feet of agricultural land.

“In time, it will provide a useful ecological habitat in addition to creating value in terms of open spaces and visual amenity,” Dr Gibbons said. Dr Gibbons approved the appeal, granting the developer permission to continue with the project.