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Green groups fear worst in land-zoning errors

Wildlife and protected land could be at risk because of errors in a new electronic system for land zoning, environmentalists warned yesterday.

The Department of Planning admitted it could not guarantee the draft Bermuda Plan was error-free, but rejected calls for an extension to yesterday's deadline for opinions and objections.

The Bermuda National Trust said it spotted “significant errors” in the land boundaries of its own properties.

The BNT's request for a deadline extension was backed by the Bermuda Audubon Society and the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce.

Bill Zuill, the executive director of the BNT, said: “Beyond our own properties, we don't really know the extent of the problem — our concern is that because it has happened on so many of our properties, you have to assume that it is fairly systemic. In some cases it is pretty consistent.

“You might have a nature reserve and a residential zone right next to it, for example, and because the boundaries are not accurate, you may have a corner of a nature reserve listed as residential.

“Some property owners may think that a part of their lot is a more generous zoning than it is and they could make an argument that they should be able to build more densely in that area.

“If the Government would extend this objection period, it would give people more time to look at their particular properties and say it is not right and have the boundaries fixed.”

Karen Border, the president of the Audubon Society, added: “Until we can get some concrete assurances that this issue will be dealt with, it leaves too many unknowns and potential for error. It absolutely merits an abundance of caution of extending the process before this plan is finalised.

“If there are inaccuracies, there is the potential that somebody will, for example, remove woodland on the assumption that it is not zone protected simply because of an error in the zoning map.

“It could absolutely have an adverse effect on wildlife.”

Kim Smith, the executive director of BEST, said: “Since the Bermuda National Trust has found there to be significant errors in the zoning maps in the draft Bermuda Plan 2018, BEST would support their call for an extension to the deadline for input on the plan, especially in light of any potential damage to the future protection of conservation-zoned sites.”

The draft Bermuda Plan 2018, released in December, marked out zonings that ranged from high-density residential areas to no-build nature reserves.

The Department of Planning's new electronic system includes graphics such as satellite images, but some of the buildings and structures do not match their actual locations.

A disclaimer on the department's website said officials and the Bermuda Government did not “guarantee that the information will be error-free”.

A department spokeswoman said that the overlapping areas of land were a result of “approximations of lot-line boundaries in the absence of an island-wise catalogue of registered land parcels”.

She added: “They will be amended on an ongoing basis as and when the department receives boundary surveys as part of planning application submissions.”

The spokeswoman said the three-month consultation period was greater than the two months required under planning law.

To view the zoning map, visit: planning.gov.bm

Environmentalists fear protected areas like Tom Moore's Jungle in Hamilton Parish could be damaged by errors in the Government's zoning map.

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Published March 16, 2019 at 9:53 am (Updated March 16, 2019 at 10:51 am)

Green groups fear worst in land-zoning errors

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