Opinion – The Royal Gazette – August 2, 2023

On May 28, or whenever was the deadline for the Fairmont Southampton special development offer, I placed an objection that was on time and acknowledged by the relevant authorities.

My objection was based on the developer’s own public statements that if it did not get what it wanted in the SDO and get it now, it would abandon the hotel project. I suppose with this revised version, it still holds the same attitude because it needed all those features within the SDO, which included a $75 million government guarantee, numerous tax concessions and massive overdevelopment. Perhaps the most aggravating was the closure of the hotel until 2024, which is now extended to the summer of 2025.

The argument I placed said that it was totally unnecessary to destroy the environment, including the golf course, by building a massive project-style housing development in order to finance the hotel operation and reopening. I also said there was no need for the government guarantee and the crippling concessions, which deprive any real benefit to the island, in order to be funded.

I offered that there is an alternative which did not require a government guarantee of $75 million for the $300 million refurbishment, and which would allow the hotel to remain open and be refurbished 200 rooms at a time until completed. This option could still include a redo or rebuild of the beach property, and some infrastructural items that need modernisation.

I said in my objection that I wanted this to be publicised because this issue transcends politics — it is of national interest and concern. This op-ed is the fulfilment of that promise included within my objection, which I will repeat again before the August 18 deadline for the new revised SDO.

I am grateful at least for the acknowledgement of receipt from David Burt, but had looked forward to a discussion with him. The Premier seems to be stuck with a difficult choice fearing a disastrous outcome if he does not yield to the demands of the developer.

Every negotiation must have a bottom line, and the bottom line for this hotel should include no removal of the golf course. This golf course is a feature of the hotel and its visitor amenities. It is a PGA Tour-standard par-three course designed to offer guests a full and real game, not a just a pitch-and-putt.

Another feature should be that the hotel remains open during the refurbishment. Bermuda’s tourism cannot afford to close 25 per cent of its beds and its major hotel resort for a prolonged period without serious damage to the economy. That is not just an opinion; it is a self-evident truth — one the developer chose to overlook because it does not suit its narrative.

How could the developer, as it would have us believe, say it is going to be better for our tourism, but two years down the road when it reopens?

Gencom owns the property and is using that leverage as owner also of the other large hotel property of 240 acres, which combined represents a significant component of our visitor industry. The Government can almost not say no to anything it demands.

Read more here: https://www.royalgazette.com/opinion-writer/opinion/article/20230807/of-national-interest-and-concern/