Parks upbeat on Fairmont Southampton Railway Trail plans
Discussion about revitalising part of the Railway Trail that cuts through the Fairmont Southampton site was welcomed by the Department of Parks in its response to a request by the hotel’s owner for a special development order.
Westend Properties included details for the provision of a ramp where there is a steep staircase and the addition of “discrete lighting” in its Revised Master Plan last month.
The parks department also considered other aspects of the overall redevelopment project, including potential infrastructure impacts related to a water-management system at Horseshoe Bay and any access required for construction vehicles at the popular beach’s parking lot.
An environmental-impact statement submitted as part of the latest SDO application and uploaded to the Department of Planning website last month said: “A section of Railway Trail bisects the northern part of the subject site.
“The western section requires ascent up a steep staircase, making continued access for cyclists or adults with buggies difficult.
“The proponent is proposing construction of a ramp to address this, as well as removal of the invasive species encroaching the eastern Railway Trail approach and the addition of some discrete lighting which neighbours have said would improve safety.”
In its response, the parks department wrote: “The Department of Parks welcomes the discussion for revitalisation of … sections of the Railway Trail.
“We would like to see any plans for the area before providing approval.
“We would like to work together on this project.”
It added that the eastern portion of the section was renovated in the past ten years and that the work allowed for a ramp to cater to bicycles, horses and buggies.
The response said: “The removal of invasives in this area is pertinent to its maintenance.
“The western portion of this section could benefit from a ramp, as well.
"We welcome the installation of lighting for safety purposes as this is a task we are undertaking in other parks.“
Under “potential infrastructure impacts” in the EIS, it was noted that there was a possible effect on “storm water run-off during construction and operations, especially to the South Road, the Fairmont Beach parking lot area detention systems, and Horseshoe Bay Beach detention area”.
The parks department responded: “As Horseshoe Bay is the most popular beach in Bermuda, the Department of Parks would like a more comprehensive plan which considers prevention and mitigation methods to address the potential risk outlined under ‘Potential Infrastructure Impacts’ to the storm water run-off that will make its way to the Horseshoe Bay Beach detention area.
“This system is already fragile.”
It added: “The Department of Parks would like to be informed if ever access is needed through the gate of the shared boundary in the Horseshoe Bay parking lot during the construction period.
“We will look to restrict construction vehicle access during the summer season, especially during peak hours, so as to limit the impact on tourism.”
The SDO request, revised from an earlier application made in April, seeks in-principle approval for up to 159 tourism and 91 residential units in buildings of two to four storeys, with vehicle parking.
As well as parking spaces for each area of development, the EIS said, an area for additional parking with an estimated 100 bays was proposed for the northern side of the hotel.
The parks department responded that the lot appeared to be within a 25ft setback to the Railway Trail.
It explained: “This setback exists so as to protect the cultural heritage of this National Park asset.
“As such, the visual impact of the hardscaping utilised for a parking lot will need to be mitigated in the design and the Department of Parks will need to be consulted prior to the designs being approved.
“The Department of Parks requests that this additional parking lot be open for public use. The proposed site for parking is currently used as parking space for those that wish to utilise the Railway Trail and without it, there is no safe parking in the area.”
Also among the “community gains” proposed by Westend Properties is the realignment — at the company’s expense — of South Road to “eliminate the dangerous S-bend”.
A response from the Highways Section of the Department of Works and Engineering, noting “no objection for the EIS”, said: “We would like to request that clarification be sought as to when the developers propose to carry out the S-curve on South Road and raise concerns that, if it is reserved until Phase 3, there would be no incentive for the developer to implement the improvements.”
Separately, an e-mail from Belco advised the planning department that with any large-scale project, a developer is expected to contact the utility company “in the early stages with all key technical requirements”.
It added: “Belco will then undertake any necessary system studies which will highlight whether there is a need for infrastructure upgrades to ensure security of supply.”
Wayne Caines, the company’s president, said earlier that responsibility to maintain customer confidentiality was taken seriously and the organisation was unable to comment on specific discussions.
Peter Adwick, of Adwick Planning, wrote on July 26 in a cover letter to the revised application that “as requested by planning, a meeting with Belco has been held, which has confirmed their ability to support the project with their existing transmission network but with upgrades to the substation required”.
Members of the public have until tomorrow to submit representations or objections in respect of the revised SDO request.
A government spokeswoman said yesterday that 98 objections were lodged to the earlier application made in April, which sought in-principle permission for up to 147 residential and 114 tourism units.
The request attracted three other representations.
People who submitted comments were notified about the revised application and provided with information about how they could make additional remarks.
They were told in an e-mail from the Department of Planning: “Please note that, if you do not wish to make any further representation, your existing comments will be considered.”
The government spokeswoman said yesterday that one additional comment in objection was lodged so far for the revised request, as well as one representation.