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Govt. MPs expected to back Tucker’s Point SDO

An amended Special Development Order for Tucker's Point is expected to sail through the House of Assembly today, with two-thirds of the MPs likely to vote in its favour.

The scaled-back proposal for the five-star resort made it through the Senate on Friday by seven votes to four and must now go back to the Lower Chamber for approval.

Environment Minister Walter Roban will table the revised version and all of the Government MPs who attend today's session are expected to back it, excluding Speaker Stanley Lowe, who would not be required to vote.

That could mean at least 24 votes in favour, including Independent Darius Tucker, MP for Hamilton South, who supports the development in his constituency, and Bermuda Democratic Alliance member Shawn Crockwell.

The BDA, which has three MPs, is likely to allow a vote of conscience, as it did when the original SDO was debated in the House on February 28 and Mr Crockwell voted for it.

His colleague Donte Hunt voted against and Mark Pettingill was absent due to sickness but said afterwards he would have done the same.

Mr Pettingill said yesterday he had still to analyse the revised plan so could not say how he would vote today.

All of the United Bermuda Party's nine MPs are expected to vote against the amended order.

Opposition Leader Kim Swan wouldn't confirm that last night but said the party's position remained unchanged from the first vote, when all nine opposed.

Three PLP MPs were absent on February 28: Dennis Lister, Walter Lister and former Environment Minister El James.

Walter Lister said yesterday he would vote for it today. “I think now we've made a compromise we should believe in the compromise.We should support the progress.

“I think it [the amended SDO] satisfies many issues that were raised and this is why I'm supporting it at this stage.”

Mr James said the public would have to “wait until tomorrow” to find out his vote. Dennis Lister did not return a call.

Mr Swan last night accused Government of rushing the order through with “unseemly haste” despite it being a matter of “grave environmental, historical and economic significance”.

He said: “We were disappointed that they were not persuaded to slow down the process and consult more widely.

“We listened to the SDO debate [in the Senate] and our position was well put by our three Senators and it remains.”

He said the party's main concerns were the environmental impact on Paynter's Hill, the sale of protected forested areas for concentrated residential development and “ambiguity” regarding the hotel component of the expansion plan.

Controversy has surrounded the Tucker's Point SDO since it was first announced in the House on February 4.

The original order would have removed zoning restrictions on the land and allowed failing Tucker's Point to apply for permission to build 78 private homes and 70 hotel rooms.

The luxury resort said it needed to expand to survive, while Government said the development would boost tourism.

Environmentalists claimed the scheme would destroy protected natural areas and the SDO stalled on its first appearance in the Senate on March 18.

Tucker's Point and Government went back to the drawing board and came up with an amended nine-page order, removing elements of the proposed development to ensure the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas, including hotel rooms earmarked for Quarry Hill.

Junior Environment Minister David Burt told the Senate on Friday the amended order now provided for 24 additional hotel residences.

Stuart Hayward, from Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), said yesterday: “We are delighted that a number of acres of land are going to come into the public stock.

“We give credit to the negotiators and also the public, who got engaged. We certainly want to thank all the people who got engaged. This was an awakening for Bermuda. It indicates that large numbers of Bermudians do care about their country.”

He said BEST had yet to see a copy of the amended order, though this newspaper was able to obtain one from Senator Burt.

Mr Hayward said based on what he heard in the Senate, BEST was still against the order.

“We would prefer not to have any land that was zoned conservation taken out of its conservation zoning. That's the bottom line.” He said it ought to be possible to create a denser development on brownfield land.

James Masters, chairman of Castle Harbour Ltd, the owner and developer of Tucker's Point, said yesterday he looked forward to the resort “now being positioned to contribute to the revival of tourism growth in Bermuda”.

He added that the company's immediate focus once the SDO passed would be the transfer of management responsibilities to Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

“Rosewood is expected to give the Rosewood Tucker's Point Hotel a significant marketing lift by introducing new markets of affluent leisure and business travellers.”

Mr Roban did not respond to a request for comment.

l See EDITORIAL and Senate report, Page 4


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Published March 28, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated March 28, 2011 at 10:24 am)

Govt. MPs expected to back Tucker’s Point SDO

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