Log In

Reset Password

‘This development is not in Bermuda’s national interest’

Controversial: a computer-generated image of what the Fairmont Southampton property could look like if redevelopment goes ahead (File photograph)

Government ministers and senators have been urged to reject controversial plans to redevelop the Fairmont Southampton hotel.

Environmental groups wrote a letter to the politicians arguing that the development was not “reasonable or complementary”.

They also accused the Government of failing to be transparent with the public over its contract with the owner, Gencom, and reminded members of the Cabinet that they had a duty to make decisions that were “in the best interests of the country”.

Westend Properties Ltd, the developer of the site, submitted a special development order to the Department of Planning in April, seeking in-principle approval to construct up to 114 tourism and 147 residential units in buildings of up to six storeys at the site.

It also sought permission for associated access roads, parking areas and modifications to the resort’s golf course.

The six-page letter was signed by Kim Smith, the executive director of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, on behalf of the Bermuda National Trust, the Bermuda Audubon Society “and other concerned environmentalists and residents“.

It listed a catalogue of reasons why the SDO should not be approved, including a lack of detail about the project, alleged misleading statements and claims, irreversible environmental harm and that it would be “ruinous” to the Bermuda brand.

Under the subheading “Lack of Political and Economic Transparency”, Ms Smith wrote: “For such a major project that seeks an SDO on the basis of national importance, the lack of transparency is extremely concerning.

“Bermudians are being asked to give up to development large tracts of protected land and yet we are being kept in the dark about critical elements of the deal.

“For instance, is the loan guarantee for $75 million or is it for more? What collateral has been put up for this guarantee? Is the guarantee contingent on the approval of the SDO or has it already been given, leaving us on the hook for the repayment already?

“Also, we need to know the degree to which Bermuda is currently committed by any of the private meetings, discussions, agreements or promises that would be binding should Gencom be denied this SDO.

“To quote Bermuda’s former finance minister, Curtis Dickinson, ‘the risks are so high and the record with guarantees to external projects so real that only a full, transparent examination of the protections by this honourable House are warranted’.

“Public trust in our government representatives must be met with evidence that decisions made are made with due diligence and due consideration and to be in the best interest of the country and its citizens.

“This development is not in Bermuda’s national interest. Nor will it provide any solution to our problems. It will only make them worse. Should this proposed development go ahead, it will benefit the few, not the many, and many of those few aren’t even from Bermuda.”

David Burt, the Premier, has repeatedly refused to provide details of the deal, claiming that he did not want to make public “commercially sensitive information”.

The letter concludes: “The Fairmont Southampton is an iconic hotel and we want to see it fully operational as soon as possible. If additional but reasonable development that is complementary to the island’s beauty and culture is necessary, we will accept that, but what is proposed in application SDO0001-23 is neither reasonable, nor complementary.

“We don’t know what the final buildings will look like, the developers haven’t illustrated the full extent of all the necessary hardscaping and they have taken deliberate steps to mislead the public about the true economic and environmental costs.

“We urge you to support our call for this SDO to be refused.“

The SDO is currently under review by planning officers and timelines for the project have been put back repeatedly.

In February, Mr Burt insisted that construction would begin in the second quarter of this year, and that the hotel was expected to reopen in the final quarter of next year.

A consultant for Gencom said this week that a progress report will be provided “in the coming weeks”.

Westend Properties did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published July 13, 2023 at 7:55 am (Updated July 13, 2023 at 7:37 am)

‘This development is not in Bermuda’s national interest’

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon