“Given the significant benefits it will have for the tourism industry and, by extension, the island’s greater economy, we remain hopeful” that we “will be successful when our proposal goes before the Minister,” the Fairmont Southampton developers said after the Planning Department recommended the SDO is not approved.
The letter from planning said, “The proposal is in direct conflict with the strategies, goals and objectives of the Bermuda Plan 2018 and is considered to represent an unsustainable form of development which would result in several adverse environmental effects which the applicant has failed to demonstrate can or would be satisfactorily mitigated whilst failing to commit to enhancements of beneficial effects.
“It is noted that the business model which the applicant has chosen to finance the refurbishment of the Hotel is, according to the applicant, reliant on approval being granted for the quantum of development proposed. There is therefore a greater possibility that the Hotel will not be reopened if approval is not granted, although the extent of this possibility nor the amount of time the Hotel would remain closed cannot reasonably be assessed based on the limited data and lack of alternative financing models which have been presented.
“It is therefore recommended that the Minister responsible for Planning does not proceed with making a Special Development Order based on the proposal as it has been presented.”
A spokesperson said, “The recommendation of the Planning Department to the Development Applications Board [DAB] regarding the Fairmont Southampton SDO is disappointing, but we are not surprised.
“The Department’s purview has fairly specific parameters and focuses on the technical assessment of application proposals to ensure compliance with planning policies and zoning regulations. Further, the DAB is legally prevented from approving any development that does not conform to the current development plan. As a result, the DAB cannot actually approve Westend’s application.
“Bermuda’s SDO process was designed precisely for this type of situation – where a development proposal doesn’t fall within the regular zoning guidelines, but is in the national interest, power is granted to the Minister of Home Affairs to approve development through an SDO. We are grateful that the process allows for this additional opportunity for review.
“Despite the fact that Planning’s recommendation was not unexpected, we strongly disagree with several of the conclusions outlined in the Department’s report. We listened to the public’s concerns about various aspects of the proposed development and had multiple meetings with Planning and adapted our plan accordingly after each consultation.
“In response, we went back to the drawing board to scale back our plans and reduce density on the site. We made several changes in an effort to address the concerns while still making the project financially viable – our revised application reduced the total number of units and significantly reduced the height of some of the proposed buildings.
“It also includes several community gains, some environmental – such as the designation of three tracts of land as Protected Conservation Areas – and some focused on safety – such as the realignment of the S-bend on South Road. We believe that the Southampton property can easily accommodate the development of residential and tourism units as laid out in our proposal; in fact, the majority of the property will remain as green space which includes the golf course.
“Given the significant benefits it will have for the tourism industry and, by extension, the island’s greater economy, we remain hopeful that our desire to create a year-round destination resort will be successful when our proposal goes before the Minister.”