House: hotel development leases approved
Leases for a proposed hotel development in St George's were approved by the House of Assembly on Wednesday night.
While the Opposition expressed support for the 262-year leases, it warned the Government to make sure the public will retain free access to Fort St Catherine Beach.
Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism, said the hotel would include 122 hotel rooms, six estate residences and a possible 90 condos, renovations for the St George's Golf Course, and — subject to Gaming Commission approval — a casino.
He acknowledged that concerns had been expressed about public access to the beach, noting that access was restricted when previous hotels had been operating in the area.
“It's a beautiful beach,” he said. “We already promised that they will provide reasonable access to the beach without any charge at all times and when they want to utilise the beach for private events, they need to ask permission from the minister.
“[The public] will retain access to the beach. There will be a clear egress to the beach. This is positive going forward.”
Jamahl Simmons, the Shadow Minister of Tourism, stressed the need to retain public access to the beach, urging the Government not to slip away from that over time. He also said the developers need to be open about the direction of the project so the public are aware of what is happening.
“We recognise the importance of having another [hotel] property in Bermuda, particularly a property in the East End which has been devastated economically by the absence of this property and the reduced number of cruise ships.
“I think the people of St George's will be excited,” he said. “I think they will be very cautiously optimistic that the Government will keep access open, but we call for greater openness from the developer, greater interaction and a further expansion and continuation of the process. Until the shovels hit the ground, let's keep the lines of communication open, let's make sure people are kept accountable along the way as we go through this process.”
Lovitta Foggo, the St David's MP, also stressed the importance of retaining public access to the beach or else the Government could earn the ire of the public.
“Here is something that may bring much to the area, but at the same time, it's taking a valuable asset that many St Georgians enjoy,” she said. “I just want to put my voice out there on behalf of the people in the eastern area to appeal to the minister to make sure all the checks and balances are in place.”
Kenneth Bascome, the area MP, thanked Mr Crockwell and his team for bringing the project this far, adding: “I can assure the people of St George that they will have access to that beach.
“I am a part of this team, and I will guarantee you that my voice will be heard should it not take place.”
Noting the deterioration of the site and the golf course in recent years, he said the new development would help put further shine in the “jewel” of Bermuda.
Mr Bascome added: “I can tell you there will be no six years of broken promises because I have told the minister if these folks don't deliver, they need to get on their plane and go to whence they came because [former site developer Carl] Bazarian kept us in limbo so long people say they don't believe it's going to happen.”
Last week the Senate also passed the St George's Resort Leases as well as The Casino Gaming (Designated Sites) Regulations.