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Gosling bemoans lack of city consultation

Proposals to raise the skyline in Hamilton have been backed by mayor Charles Gosling, but he is disappointed that the city was not consulted on the plan.

He said: “It had not been raised in any conversations with our minister. I am disappointed the City of Hamilton was not consulted on these matters.”

David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced several policy changes affecting North Hamilton, including an increase in permitted building height, in his Budget statement on Friday.

He said: “For as long as we can remember, the Bermuda Cathedral has restricted the height of buildings in the city.

“As we look to the future, it is time to consign old restrictions to the history books.

“To increase the options for development inside the City of Hamilton and to provide economic activity to North Hamilton, the Government will revise height restrictions in the Hamilton Economic Empowerment Zone for residential and mixed-used developments.”

The Government will also relax condominium ownership restrictions for approved developments but will not introduce a new tax on commercial rents.

Land tax rates on commercial properties will be increased by 5 per cent on a temporary basis instead, which is expected to raise an extra $15 million in revenue.

Planning regulations limit the height of buildings in Hamilton to seven storeys, although plans for taller buildings have been approved on appeal if they are not in the “viewing corridor” of the Cathedral.

The Department of Planning asked for public views on potential changes to the City of Hamilton Plan 2001, which included changes to maximum building heights.

At that time, 33 people told planning staff they would not support buildings taller than the Cathedral, while seven said taller buildings should be allowed.

Mr Gosling said the change could help spark development in the city.

He said: “The restrictions have affected the development of properties within the city.

“It's a well-known fact that if you are able to increase the height of a property by even a single storey, there is a significant impact on the cost efficiency of the development.”

Mr Gosling warned: “What we need to keep in mind is we don't want to develop into a city where you are just overwhelmed by the height of the buildings.”

The mayor said that public safety remained a concern for people in North Hamilton and that should be addressed before major development started.

He added: “I have looked at a lot of North Hamilton development plans over the last ten years and their main issue has been safety.

“It's one thing to have a wonderful, huge building in the centre of that area, but if you don't address the safety concerns you are not going to get anywhere.

“I would much rather they address that first so those who already do live in the area can enjoy the benefits.

“We also have to be conscious of the issue of gentrification. It's a hugely complex issue.”

Despite his disappointment about the lack of consultation with the Corporation, Mr Gosling backed the overall theme of the Budget speech.

He said: “I think it was a careful balancing act on the Premier's part.

“He is obviously showing great concern about the debt that every Bermudian now has on their shoulders.”

The Bermuda National Trust said it would want to know more about the proposals, but it would support sustainable development in North Hamilton.

A spokesman said: “Our only immediate concern is there are some buildings of historic and cultural importance in the area.

“Obviously, we would want to review any applications for those sites very carefully to make sure we are not losing any buildings of national importance.”

Church view: the city vista shot from the Anglican Cathedral (Photos by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 19, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2018 at 10:38 pm)

Gosling bemoans lack of city consultation

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