Concern as former baseland leases stretch to 262 years
Legislation to double the maximum lease of former baselands property was unanimously approved yesterday in the House of Assembly.
However, Shadow Education Minister Dr Grant Gibbons expressed concern that legal issues could arise, with the properties original owners fighting for their land back.
The ammendment doubles the maximum lease on the former baselands, including Morgan's Point, Daniel's Head and Southside from 161 years to 262 years.
This brings the maximum lease in line with that recently given for the former Club Med site in St. George's, and is intended to help encourage hotel developers to build on the land.
Speaking on the proposed amendment, Dr Gibbons said that when the baseland was originally purchased for the construction of the various baselands, including Southside, Morgan's Point and Daniel's Head, there was a stipulation that should the land be resold, the original owners would be given the first option to buy the land.
He said the 131-year maximum lease had been put in place based on legal advice to keep that from happening, and was concerned that extending the leases could cause problems.
“One hundred and thirty one years seems like an odd number but there was an explanation for it at the time,” he said.
“When we give out double that, and now that we're offering it to people who are then selling condominiums, at what point do we get into difficulty.”
He also said that Government needs to make sure that there are enough trained Bermudians to get involved with the coming hotel constructions, citing a project in the Bahamas where several thousand Chinese workers may be brought in for a multi-billion dollar hotel construction.
“The issue is if these projects do start, are Bermudians being trained sufficiently to take advantage of the jobs these projects offer?” he asked.
“Much has been said about technical training and vocational training, but what is the PLP Government doing now to prepare Bermudians for those opportunities?
“We need to make sure that construction money isn't going into foreign hands and is going to Bermudian pockets.”
Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess responded to the question of the duration of the lease saying that the extended lease was allowable under the Acquisition of Land Act 1970.
And Premier Paula Cox refuted the idea that the PLP had done little to train Bermudians, citing amendments to the Hotel Concessions Act and the Introduction of the Hustle Truck as examples.
Ms Cox said: “They are taking, and have taken, people who many people would have wanted to cast aside.”
She said the PLP Government had invested heavily in “human capital,” and anyone who said otherwise was misleading the public.
“We are demonstratively committed to the training of the people.”
The legislation was passed by a unanimous vote.