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Minister gives St Regis the green light

St Regis (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The St Regis hotel has been given the green light to move forward — a week after retroactive changes to the approved plans were rejected.

The Development Applications Board refused to grant retroactive planning permission at a hearing last week.

But Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, overturned the decision and said the project moving forward was in the best interest of the community.

In a letter dated May 10 – added to the online planning file yesterday – Mr Roban said his decision was based on the “minor nature” of the works, which were in full compliance with relevant policies.

He also highlighted the willingness of the developer to take on mitigation measures to address concerns about a relocated service entrance.

Mr Roban said: “The retroactive nature of the application is unfortunate, and I agree with the board that the appellant ought to have known that the requisite planning approvals should have been obtained prior to implementation on site.

“However I recognise that this is the first occasion on which the appellant has sought planning permission retroactively and, given the significant benefits which this development will have on the economy and vitality of the area and Bermuda as a whole, I consider my decision to grant planning permission to be in the wider public interest.”

The approval came under the condition that traffic calming measures are implemented and installed before the final certificate of completion and occupancy is issued.

Plans for the 122-room St Regis Hotel, set to open on May 22, were originally approved in 2016.

However in April the developer applied for retroactive planning permission for a number of changes to the approved plan that had already been carried out.

Among the changes were a relocation of a pool bar, a new golf cart parking area, the removal of several windows and the extension of a beach retaining wall.

The changes also involved repositioning of the “back of house” driveway linking the property to Barry Road and the creation of a separate entrance to the property’s casino.

A technical officer said the DAB could not accept the application because of its retroactive nature — although they said the changes did not go against the Bermuda Plan and many were improvements.

The DAB refused the application on May 5, but the developer launched an appeal to the Minister that same day.

The appeal noted that the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and the Department of Health had toured the site and were satisfied that it was ready for operation, but without approvals the developer would not be able to secure its hotel operating licence, elevator licence or liquor licence.

In a letter submitted to support the appeal, Colin Campbell, the regional director of architects OBMI, urged the changes be approved and noted that both the health department and the BFRS had advised that the hotel was ready to open.

Mr Campbell added: “To regularise this situation, and allow for the occupancy certificates to be granted, if this appeal is not accepted, would require the demolition, reapplication, likely approval, and reconstruction of the works in the exact manner that they currently stand.

“The additional cost and inevitable impact on the opening date of the hotel caused by such a process would provide no additional benefit to the quality of the development as viewed by the planning department and would likely result in lost revenue to both the hotel and the island as visitors have already booked rooms following the anticipated opening date.”

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