Sir John backs Tucker’s Point SDO
Former Premier Sir John Swan yesterday urged Senators to back the Rosewood Tucker's Point SDO as environmentalists stepped up their campaign against the project.“Those who sit by and do nothing then blame the system for not doing what they want the system to do. You have to do something.”
The former United Bermuda Party leader whose party opposed the Special Development Order as it passed through the House of Assembly said the hotel's expansion could provide a lifeline for the Island's tourism industry.
Sir John said blocking the development would amount to sitting back and doing nothing as Bermuda becomes engulfed by the economic crisis.
However, protesters including green group BEST and anti-racism group CURB have now put together a series of videos and a letter-writing campaign in an attempt to get Senators to reject the SDO.
Some claim Tucker's Point needs the initiative for 78 homes and 70 hotel rooms to stave off insolvency, with records showing it was losing more than $1 million a month throughout 2009 and last year.
Supporters of the development say Bermuda can't afford for Tucker's Point to fail. Environmentalists complain the plan would destroy important wildlife habitats while it has also upset descendants of families forcibly removed from Tucker's Town in the 1920s.
Senators are expected to vote on Wednesday, after it won by 21 votes to ten in the House two weeks ago despite several Progressive Labour Party MPs speaking against it in caucus.
Sir John said yesterday: “I plead to the Senate to let it go through.
“What I'm concerned about is the economic well-being of Bermuda. There are not many options available. We are sitting on the edge of a precipice unless we start to do things differently.
“I know this will ruffle other people's feathers but we can't just let the process go its normal course.
“I'm saying the Country's economy is in trouble. I built this building on Front Street: it's to say to international business that the Country is economically open for business, it's a message to Bermudians. I think the same applies at Tucker's Point.
“Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith if you want to get out of a problem.
Sir John said the development could give potential tourists something new they've been looking for.
“There aren't that many people coming to Bermuda. Those that come don't stay for a long time,” he said.
“The nature of tourism is changing and the type of people that come want to have something permanent. Condos can mean wealthy people have a fixed residence in Bermuda. We might just be stepping into a new area of income.”
Sir John said Bermuda has become too reliant on international business as tourism has deteriorated, adding: “We have to start realistically looking at what can be done to ensure we have some long-term activity in our economy.
“We have to look at what we can do to stabilise the economic environment by using the assets that we have. Openings are very limited unless we take some very bold positions on how we are going to improve the income of the Country.
“Are we going to look at inviting more foreign capital and intellect into the Country to help the growth of the economy?
Sir John added that, if the SDO is granted, Government should ensure the appropriate kind of development takes place.
Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) is joined in opposition to the plans by Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB), Bermuda Audubon Society, Bermuda National Trust, Greenrock, St George's Historical Society and Tucker's Town Historical Society.
Stuart Hayward of BEST said the group had put together videos featuring interviews with social, environmental and economic commentators.
“These videos are designed to help further educate the general public on the serious and detrimental effect that the granting of this SDO will have on Bermuda and its people,” said Mr Hayward in a press release.
“We encourage everyone to view these videos, share them, and then e-mail or write, and hand deliver, to the Senators before Wednesday to express your concern over the Tucker's Point SDO.”
Yesterday, Independent Senator Walwyn Hughes said he'd received a “pile of e-mails” from campaigners but would not reveal how he's going to vote.
“You have to listen very carefully to what is before the Senate, do your homework, make sure you are completely familiar with the background information and the facts, and then try to do what you think is of the best interests of the Country,” he said.
UBP Senator Michael Dunkley said he's still listening to views from the community before making a decision, while fellow Opposition Senators Suzann Roberts-Holshouser and Jeanne Atherden didn't reply to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Tucker's Point yesterday repeated its pledge to donate Mangrove Lake and land at Whitecrest Hill to Bermuda if it gets the SDO; it also promised to maintain Harrington Sound Park.
President Ed Trippe said in a press release: “We very much wanted to give something back to the Island. The park maintenance programme, land donation and lake, along with our extensive reforestation programme, will ensure that the endemic species and natural beauty of Tucker's Point is preserved for many generations.”
The hotel's press release described new residential building coverage as “far less than most of Tucker's Point critics foresee” at less than one acre, accompanied by a reforestation programme.
Mr Trippe pledged all endemic, native and ornamental plants, and rare animals, will be protected during development.
Useful websites: www.vimeo.com/best/videos
Campaigners are urging potential opponents to the Tucker's Point SDO to bombard Senators with messages.
Anti-racism group CURB has listed a number of reasons why the extension should not be allowed, the top one being that Tucker's Point is a “visible and poignant reminder” of the forcible relocation of hundreds of people.
“The destruction of historic buildings important to black Bermudian history located on this site has continued up until recent times representing an ongoing intention to ignore that particular history,” states the group in an e-mail.
“The failure of our community to teach the full truth about our history is a loss to us all. We must ask why we have not been taught the stories of black Bermudian history and achievement? Stories such as the extraordinary Tucker's Town community.
“Please write your Senators encouraging them to take action to protect this historically symbolic and irreplaceably pristine landscape.”
Meanwhile environmentalist Stuart Hayward, of BEST, sent protesters tips on letter-writing:
l start by saying who you are, why you care and what expertise you may have;
l choose up to three strong points and express them in your own words;
l keep letters respectful and as factual as possible.
Both groups provided lists of Senators' e-mail addresses.
Useful websites: www.best.org.bm; www.uprootingracism.org