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Resort moves a step closer

Legislative changes to the original Act that paves the way for a luxury St Regis hotel resort in St George’s were passed by MPs last night.

The St George’s Resort Amendment Act 2016 made a handful of alterations to the original St George’s Resort Act 2015, which was tabled in July of last year and then passed a month later.

Kenneth Bascome, the Junior Minister for Tourism, told the House of Assembly yesterday that the amendments would allow the developers Desarrollos to “stay on course” to break ground in early 2017.

Mr Bascome confirmed that financing for the multimillion dollar project was in place and that the hotel would be built first before the condominium phase.

“We hope that the planning process will be completed at the end of December and soon after that the project will be started,” he said.

The amendment legislation makes a slight adjustment to the size of one of the development lots, to correct a mistake in the original Act.

The Act provides the Development Applications Board with a discretion to determine whether further Environmental Impact Assessments or Traffic Impact Assessments needs to be completed during the project.

It also allows the Bermuda Government to make small changes to terms of the lease without coming back to the House of Assembly for approval. During and at times heated debate, Progressive Labour Party MPs raised “serious concerns” that EIA and TIAs would be just discretionary rather than mandatory as the project moved forward.

They also expressed shock that Government was being given the power to change terms within the 262-year development lease.

Derrick Burgess said: “No Cabinet can vary or modify a lease; changes should be brought back to this Parliament.”

Zane DeSilva added: “We have an issue with the Minister being able to change a lease, that should only be changed in this House.”

However, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, responded saying that Government was not being given the power to change the term of the lease.

He added: “We are talking about minor changes to a lease, which may come as a result of technical issues in the next few years.”

Dr Gibbons told MPs that the amendments would facilitate the development and reminded the House that an extensive EIA had already been conducted on the property.

Noting that a Historical Impact Assessment was also being done he said: “There is a great deal of sensitivity already in the current 2015 Act, such as Section 7, that protects the World Heritage Site.

“If there are minor changes it will be up to the DAB if there needs to be another EIA.”