Mayor: St George will preserve heritage while increasing opportunities
A celebration of “proud” heritage as well as opportunities for people and businesses are at the heart of Corporation of St George plans, the municipality’s mayor said.
George Dowling III addressed recent commentary and insisted the Olde Towne had modern amenities while maintaining its status as a World Heritage Site.
He said: “Receiving feedback is an integral part of running a public office and it provides us with a benchmark as to where we need to make improvements and measures overall performance.
“As we work to balance the needs of primary and secondary stakeholders, satisfying one group may mean disadvantaging another in the interim, which is mainly due to resource and/or budgetary constraints.
“The corporation wants to foster an environment that celebrates our proud heritage and promotes opportunity for all residents, visitors and businesses to thrive.”
He added that although private owners were responsible for boarded-up buildings, the corporation was working with a steering committee to “rejuvenate the town” and drive economic activity.
The mayor highlighted that the town’s old appearance was part of its brand and promoted its “historical identity as a Unesco World Heritage site destination”.
Mr Dowling, in a letter to the Editor in today’s newspaper, said: “Calls to drastically change the town's ambience run contrary to the Unesco World Heritage Site designation.
“The historical character and authentic experience are a draw for travellers that relish the experience.”
The mayor insisted it was a “misperception” to claim that the Olde Towne was not up to date.
He explained: “The town has modern services expected of any municipality, such as internet, solar panels and the provision for electric car recharging stations.
“Residents have access to a five-star hotel, golf course and soon-to-be marina.”
Citing a claim that the town is bound by "excessive red tape“, Mr Dowling said: ”The St George’s Preservation Authority, the Corporation of St George, the Bermuda National Trust and the Department of Planning are very sensitive to the town’s development needs and have crafted guidelines and regulations to ensure architectural harmony.
“Simply put, construction in a Unesco World Heritage Site and listed buildings within the town must adhere to the strict building codes in place for the town to maintain its World Heritage Site status and to preserve our heritage for future generations.”
Concerns were raised earlier this year about backing for small businesses by entrepreneur Marico Thomas during his redevelopment of a building on King’s Square.
At the time he said: “We have had great support from the mayor, the people and the Town of St George.
“But the bureaucracy and red tape, plus the lack of support is what I feel.”
Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, said later that the Department of Planning “went to great efforts” to discuss options to work around the visual impact of an extraction fan on the listed building, which he said was not included in the redevelopment’s planning permission.
Separately, a spokesman for the St George’s Stakeholder Group, made up of more than 20 businesses, said in February that members felt “abandoned”.
An action list prioritised a government ferry service to St George, enforcement of pedestrianisation on Water Street and more entertainment.
Mr Dowling said: “The corporation has acknowledged the cries of the St George’s Business Stakeholders Group and encourage them to use the systems currently in place for us to strike the right balance and deliver services efficiently.
“In full disclosure, the Corporation has an Activities Committee that supports social development; Bermuda Economic Development Corporation funds and supports business development; and the East End Chamber of Commerce lobbies economic opportunities, all within the town.”