Luxury Riddell’s Bay development backed
Plans to build 18 homes and establish one of the island's largest conservation areas at Riddell's Bay have received government backing.
Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, tabled a special development order in a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly yesterday to enable the project at the former golf course in Warwick.
A spokesman for site owner Castile Holdings said the project would create about $75 million in economic activity over the next five years and a conservation area comparable in size to the island's largest park, the Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.
Under the SDO, Mr Roban said 23 acres, or one quarter of the site, would be turned over to residential development, allowing 18 vacant lots to be developed with one standalone home on each.
The other 64 acres, comprising three quarters of the site, will be dedicated to conservation areas split into four categories: nature reserve, open space, recreation and wetland.
Mr Roban said that while the conservation area would continue to be privately owned, it would be open to the public.
He told MPs: “Against the backdrop of the current challenges being faced by our community, I am certainly proud to introduce such a scheme that represents a significant ecological and social gain for the island.
“Further, this is one of the largest single luxury developments proposed in some time. It has, undoubtedly, tremendous potential to inject an estimated $75 million capital investment into the economy; provide a much needed stimulus to various business sectors including construction and landscaping, real estate and other retail and service industries; and most importantly, provide jobs for Bermudians.”
Mr Roban added that project has undergone “exhaustive environmental analysis”, plus scrutiny by the public and technical officers in the departments of planning and environment and natural resources, as well as non-government organisations.
Mr Roban said the planning submission had included an environmental-impact statement and conservation management plan.
The conservation areas would allow re-establishment of diverse native and endemic ecosystems as well as opportunities for passive recreational use, Mr Roban said.
Mr Roban added that the developers were keen to get started, had capital waiting to be deployed and that there was already interest from prospective buyers for some of the 18 residential lots.
Sylvan Richards, of the opposition One Bermuda Alliance, asked why the SDO was approved, overriding the decision of the Development Applications Board, given that the plans breached aspects of the Bermuda Plan 2018.
Mr Roban said the proposal was “clearly in the national interest”, but that planning laws had not allowed the DAB to approve it.
“It was felt that the SDO process was the best way to ensure that it gets the appropriate public scrutiny and that it can move forward in the best interests of the country,” Mr Roban added.
He added that there had been 39 written objections sent to the Department of Planning, with the perceived loss of open space being the main complaint.
The reality was, he said, that under the current recreational zoning at Riddell's Bay, “you could actually put up an amusement park there”, while the SDO would secure one of the largest public open spaces created in the island's history.
He added there had also been an online petition against the plans, which had garnered “hundreds” of names, but he cautioned that it included the name “Santa Claus”.
Opposition MP Michael Dunkley asked what had led Mr Roban to believe the project to be in the national interest.
Mr Roban said it was “the protection of land that will be afforded as well as the amount of jobs and opportunity it will bring the country”.
He stressed that SDOs are considered on a case-by-case basis and approval of this one had come after careful consideration of technical officers' advice.
A spokesman for Castile Holdings welcomed the SDO announcement and described the project as “a win-win for all Bermudians”.
“Significant landscaping and planting works have already begun at Riddell's Bay and it is expected that these will continue for a number of years, thereby stimulating economic activity whilst enhancing our shared environment,” the spokesman said.
“When completed, Bermuda will have a new reforested 66-acre conservation zone larger than any existing park or protected space on the island including Spittal Pond, 65 acres, the Botanical Gardens, 36 acres, and the Arboretum, 22 acres.
“The new plans call for the planting of over 3,500 new trees and the creation of stunning natural gardens.
“The entire project and the resulting conservation zone is, and will be, 100 per cent privately funded, meaning that neither the Government nor Bermudian taxpayers will have to foot the bill for its ongoing maintenance.”
He added: “Our landscaping teams, architects and construction partners are on standby and ready to begin the bulk of the work as soon as formal approvals are received.”
Riddell's Bay Golf and Country Club closed in March 2016 after nearly a century in operation because the club could not meet operational costs.
• To view the full statement from the Minister of Home Affairs, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”