A common ground deal on SDO is sought by Senators
Two Senators yesterday said their support for the Rosewood Tucker's Point SDO hinges on Government finding middle ground with environmentalists.
United Bermuda Party Senator Michael Dunkley who was set to vote against the order in Friday's debate told
The Royal Gazette he would back it if amendments can appease concerns from campaigners such as Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce.
Independent Senator Walwyn Hughes urged Government to come back with something BEST and Tucker's Point can both be happy with.
Support from any of the six non-Progressive Labour Party Senators would almost certainly ensure the Special Development Order passes, allowing the hotel expansion many say would stave off financial ruin for Tucker's Point.
The SDO debate was stopped in its tracks on Friday night after all three UBP Senators, Sen Hughes and Independent Senator Joan Dillas-Wright had all indicated they'd be voting against it.
Sen Dunkley said yesterday: “I do not support the SDO in the current form, but I'm willing to consider a compromise position and I feel my colleagues would also support this approach. I do think that position can be found, but it won't come simply from Government talking to Tucker's Point.
“It comes from everyone discussing what amendments need to be made. It comes from discussions taking place with all parties including the lenders and the environmentalists.”
Sen Hughes said: “I'm just hoping they can go away and come up with something both parties could be happier with: environmentalists and Tucker's Point.
“There's always potential for something like that to happen. I would hope it does, but it remains to be seen.
“How they go about finding that I don't know. It may just mean a fresh look at the whole thing, just to see whether the order is the best way forward.”
Stuart Hayward, of BEST, said environmentalists could be appeased by a trade-off, allowing development to take place on brownfield land more suitable for development such as Catchment Hill.
Mr Hayward said a precedent was set with the Southlands/Morgan's Point land swap, when Government traded off land at Morgan's Point so a luxury tourism resort wouldn't need to be built on Warwick's Southlands estate.
“It's likely when they resume that debate they will have in hand some amendments to the SDO which should make it more palatable to the Independent Senators,” he said.
“But we don't know what they will do. This is all brand new to the Country, brand new to Parliament and brand new to the Government.”
On Friday night, Sen Hughes spoke of environmental concerns, including plans to build on land containing native and endemic trees and woods, as he said he could not support the SDO.
He urged both sides to take a deep breath and find an agreeable position; Sen Dunkley had called for the Upper House to “slow down and get this right”.
Mr Hayward reflected: “This was presented as all or nothing. It's one thing to say you are giving it to the community to discuss, but the community didn't have an option.
“Either all of the SDO passed or there was no SDO, when some parts of it were more palatable than others.”
Senate President Carol Ann Bassett, the only non-PLP Senator not to speak on Friday, has refused to say how she would have used what would have probably been her casting vote.
Critics of Government say the PLP halted the debate because they suspected Sen Bassett would vote no, but Junior Environment Minister David Burt says he opted to rise and report progress to “give an option for all the parties to reflect and to review their position”.
Sen Dillas-Wright, who opposed the move on environmental grounds last week, declined to comment yesterday when asked what might make her change her mind.
UBP Senators Jeanne Atherden and Suzann Roberts-Holshouser, who both indicated opposition last week, did not respond to requests for comment.
Environment Minister Walter Roban did not reply when asked if he would meet environmentalists to find common ground.
Tucker's Point will only be able to donate part of Mangrove Lake to the public if its controversial expansion plan gets approved, because some of it already belongs to the Bermuda National Trust.
Ed Trippe, president of Tucker's Point, has pledged that the five-star resort will donate 28 acres of land to the people of Bermuda if it is allowed to build an extra 78 private homes and 70 hotel rooms on one acre to solve its financial woes.
Part of that donation, he said earlier this month, would include Harrington Sound Park and Mangrove Lake.
But a woman whose relatives donated part of Mangrove Lake to the National Trust in 1975 told The Royal Gazette it was important for people to realise some of it was already accessible to the public.
Katherina Harlow said: “I am at a loss to know why Bermuda is being generously offered Mangrove Lake as a sop for this development.
“I thought this had already been donated by my family in my grandfather's memory to the National Trust. This is the HT North Nature Reserve.”
She described her grandfather as the “Objector General” and said he would have been appalled by the proposals put forward by Tucker's Point and outlined in the Special Development Order (SDO), which stalled in the Senate on Friday.
Dorcas Roberts, the National Trust's preservations director, explained: “The Bermuda National Trust owns the western section, some four acres, of Mangrove Lake.
“This was a generous gift to the Bermuda National Trust by Mrs Harlow's relatives Jean Outerbridge and Catherine Burnet.
“The area was declared inalienable by the National Trust's council in 1975, meaning it cannot be sold or developed.
“The Trust has been vigilant to ensure that there was no overlap of the lands outlined in the draft SDO and those lands owned by the National Trust.
“There may be a need to clarify this to the public as it may not be entirely clear that it is only a portion of the lake proposed to be given to Government by Tucker's Point.”
In a statement, Tucker's Point said: “In the Special Development Order for Tucker's Point Resort passed by the House of Assembly on February 28, the company offered to donate 7.45 acres of Nature Reserve of Whitecrest Hill and its entire holding of 18.7 acres of Mangrove Lake to the Government of Bermuda.
“To our knowledge, we have never claimed that we owned the entire lake. We believe that our neighbours, our guests at the Resort and Bermudians generally are supportive of our donation of these environmentally sensitive areas.”
The SDO, which was approved by the House of Assembly, is now likely to be redrafted and includes the donation of more than 18 acres of Mangrove Lake by Tucker's Point.
l Useful websites: www.tuckerspoint.com, www.bnt.bm