Revised Tucker’s Point SDO to go before Senators
Senators are today expected to resume their Rosewood Tucker's Point SDO debate after the planned development was severely scaled back.
But angry campaigners are preparing once more to protest at Cabinet grounds, arguing the removal of 18 acres of development hasn't gone far enough to address environmental concerns.
Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce last night hit out at Government for applauding itself for being transparent while freezing protesters out of discussions over the hotel's planned expansion to stave off financial ruin.
Last Friday's debate was dramatically stopped after four-and-a-half hours by Junior Environment Minister David Burt, with the verdict appearing to hang on the vote of Senate President Carol Ann Bassett; the other two Independent Senators had indicated they were against the SDO on environmental grounds.
Last night, Government announced changes it believes will appease Senators' concerns, including:
l Quarry Hill an area campaigners feared was under threat of deforestation will now be excluded from the SDO;
l two of the nine planned lots on Paynter's Hill have been dropped, with six acres of land donated to Government instead, so it can be protected in the long-term;
l the Whitecrest Hill development is reduced from 54 to 45 lots, with another seven acres of land donated to Government.
However, BEST's Stuart Hayward said the plan still allowed for conservation land to be converted.
“There are several aspects that we could support, but as a total package we could not support it,” he said.
Hotel bosses have been in talks this week with Environment Minister Walter Roban and Tourism Minister Patrice Minors, and say presentations have been made to Senators and planning officers.
Mr Roban said in a statement last night: “In an effort to find the common ground that many expressed a desire to see achieved, Tucker's Point Club have been more than accommodating in their willingness to adjust their development plans and have presented to Government proposals that they believe will address their need to enhance the tourism product at Tucker's Point Club while also addressing the concerns expressed by Senators.
“The Government has studied the proposals and believes that they provide a significant opportunity for this matter to proceed in the Senate.”
Tucker's Point said in a statement: “The focus of these meetings has been to explore compromises which balance the needs of Tucker's Point to develop the resort while seeking protections to the natural environment of its land holdings.
“Tucker's Point looks forward to an expeditious resolution of the issues raised in the recent debate of the SDO.
“The major tourism season for Bermuda is about to get underway and Tucker's Point looks forward to focusing its energy on providing world class service to its guests who come to enjoy this beautiful island of Bermuda.”
Mr Hayward said he was alarmed some work still seemed set to go ahead at Paynter's Hill, which he described as “an extremely sensitive area”.
“Given the public reaction to the SDO, and our role in it, we would have hoped to have been included in the discussions that led to any changes or at the very least been informed what the changes were,” he said.
“It's been quite quick, particularly considering that the public has expressed an interest in this and Government is applauding itself for its transparency.
“This has all happened rather quickly, at least from the public standpoint, and from the standpoint of groups trying to raise public opinion.
“I like to give the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn't feel like that when revisions are made and we read that they have taken place in the press.”
Coalition on Tucker's Point SDO co-ordinator Frances Marshall urged people to e-mail Independent Senators, call talk shows and gather at Cabinet late in the afternoon for the debate, scheduled for 5.15pm.
“The public need to know what's being debated, and they don't even know the debate's on,” she said.
“We will again be at Cabinet offices, and people can honk again to say no to that SDO.”
Neither Government nor Senator Burt would say when the debate would take place, although sources indicated it would likely be today.
Nine of the 11 Senators spoke at last Friday's debate. It's thought each will have a chance to speak on the amendments, while the two who didn't speak last week, Economy Minister Kim Wilson and Sen Bassett, will be able to air their overall views.
If approved by the Senate, the SDO will then go back to the House of Assembly, most likely at a special sitting on Monday, when MPs will have to reconsider it in the light of the amendments.
Tucker's Point, which has been losing more than $1 million a month, said its lead lender HSBC Bank of Bermuda has indicated support.
HSBC said in a statement: “HSBC takes the issue of customer confidentiality very seriously and as such is not able to discuss any matters in respect of customers.”