Some concerns and doubts remain as hotel’s SDO is passed by Senate
A hotel expansion remains a key part of the Rosewood Tucker's Point SDO, Junior Environment Minister David Burt pledged yesterday.
Critics had raised concerns the hotel component had been lost as Quarry Hill was removed from the order for environmental reasons.
But Senator Burt said an additional 24 hotel residences had in fact been added to the proposed development.
“There have been statements questioning what this SDO has to do with tourism now that the hotel component has been removed,” Sen Burt told the Upper House as he introduced amendments to the Special Development Order yesterday.
“The answer is simple. The order provides for 24 additional hotel residences to be developed.
“These residences are specific under the act, and can only be built as part of a hotel project. These residences can be sold or can be used as inventory for the hotel product.
“The hotel has always stated that hotel expansion would be down the road, I would suggest, as I have earlier, that process will most likely happen in the future.”
Critics had feared the scaled back development meant only the condos aspect remained, meaning a financial boost for Tucker's Point but no shot in the arm for the struggling tourism industry.
Sen Burt listed the changes made to the SDO in response to concerns raised by Senators last Friday.
l remove Quarry Hill from the order to preserve woodland reserve zoning;
l remove nine lots at Catchment Hill, taking that part of the development from 54 to 45 lots, preserving woodland and nature reserve zonings and donating an extra seven acres of land to Government for conservation;
l remove two lots of proposed development in the most environmentally sensitive locations of Paynter's Hill and donating six acres of land to Government for conservation;
l donate an acre of land currently used as a park to Government to protect in perpetuity;
l a total 18 acres of development land is proposed to be removed from the SDO.
“Having heard the concerns expressed by Senators during the debate on Friday last, we have set out to continue consultations, to listen to the voices of the people and to address the concerns raised,” said Sen Burt.
“Senators urged us to pause, to consider the matter further, and to return with a proposal that could be supported.
“We agreed with that approach, and believe that the results of our consultations will achieve the compromise desired by all.
“We are confident that all involved understand the importance of enhancing our Tourism product and re-building that most critical pillar of our economy.
“We are confident that all involved understand that these are challenging times, the likes of which many have never experienced. We are just as confident that all of us appreciate the need for us to prepare Bermuda to be successful, now and into the future, to create a Bermuda that is sustainable economically, socially, and environmentally.
“Indeed, it is a delicate balance that we seek to achieve. I trust that Senators will see that this Government has not only heard, but has listened, and has taken to heart the concerns raised by Senators. We believe that these amendments achieve that delicate but necessary balance between protecting Bermuda's special environment and sustaining our social and economic development.”
He concluded: “It's been a long couple of weeks for all of us. The opportunity before us is to emerge with a win-win for tourism and for the people of Bermuda.”
United Bermuda Party Senator Suzann Roberts Holshouser was next to speak, saying the development is too much of a gamble to sacrifice so much sensitive land.
Sen Roberts Holshouser referred to a comment from Progressive Labour Party MP Terry Lister, made during his bid for the Premiership, appearing to indicate he thought sometimes SDOs don't need to be granted.
“With each SDO that is passed, we are saturating more and more of Bermuda's green spaces,” she said.
Independent Senator Walwyn Hughes spoke next, saying he retained much of his concerns from before.
“My conclusion was that what was being asked of the Government was a price that's too heavy,” he said.
“I hoped all parties would go away and come back to something better. They have come back with something better. I still have some concerns.”
He said there is a “broad feeling out there” that the issue needs to be carefully considered.
“That's why I was a little disappointed at the start of today that we are now bringing this to a conclusion in a hasty way,” he said.
But fellow Independent Senator Joan Dillas-Wright was more impressed with the amendments, noting Quarry Hill was no longer a part of it and that development is necessary for Tucker's Point.
“I would have liked to see less development. I will support the SDO with some reservation,” she said.
UBP Senator Michael Dunkley said he was annoyed at being frozen out of talks in recent days, saying he had told Premier Paula Cox of the need to put party allegiances aside for the sake of Bermuda.
“I was shocked to find out a meeting was held with Independent Senators and Senator Atherden. Senator Holshouser and myself weren't included,” he said.
He said he didn't believe the argument that many jobs would go if Tucker's Point loses its financial battle, saying: “If the place was to be put into receivership, I can't believe that there won't be people interested in taking over running that hotel.”
Sen Dunkley said he was not comfortable proceeding with the SDO without being able to see Tucker's Point's finances.
“It's clear Government feels comfortable, but there are many people in Bermuda who are still uncomfortable,” he said.
Government Senator Cromwell Shakir said he considered the SDO “nothing but a test”.
“I really believe that it is not just a test for us around this table and if we are taking our business seriously we shouldn't believe it is just us around this table.”
According to Sen Shakir it was also important to take into account views from conservationists, environmentalists and historians.
He said this was an issue that went beyond politics and said: “I was reminded by someone very near and dear to me when it comes to important decisions, the advice was always include God when making serious and important decisions for the people.”
Sen Shakir said he had a responsibility to look after and protect God's earth “just like [those] concerned citizens that have demonstrated their God given right.”
He added that Senators also had a responsibility to act in the best interest of the public “that are paying our wages”; and stated he agreed with the SDO.
Opposition Senate Leader Jeanne Atherden said she met with technical officers involved in the Tucker's Point development and “got lots of answers to questions we were asking”.
The concluding part of this debate will be published in Monday's Royal Gazette, along with further reports from the Senate.