Implementation of the 2009 Special Development Order begins – but should tourism properties be replaced by real estate deals?

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) has just become aware of development planned for the undeveloped space on the Fairmont Southampton Princess (FSP) property. FSP has permission, granted by a Special Development Order (SDO) in 2009, to build 130 residential units. Of that total, 71 are fractional units for tourists and 37 are residential villas for sale to non-Bermudians, these ranging from two-bedrooms to four-bedrooms in size and two- to three-storeys in height. The remaining 22 units are two-bedroom “town homes” for Bermudians.

While the application submitted so far is for Phase 1, a mere (3) three-bedroom villas, the public should be aware that segments of the now mostly-green hillsides and landscape surrounding FSP are eventually going to be transformed from green and open space to the concrete and tarmac of housing developments. It is also an indication that, like Tucker’s Point, FSP is morphing from a tourist facility into a real estate agency and is selling off its property.

On behalf of the Bermuda public, our government has entrusted hotel outfits with amenity open space, much of it with protective zoning. That open space has a value and benefit to all Bermudians, ranging from amenity space that is attractive and comforting to all residents — whether they be visitors or locals — to recreational- and even agricultural-use land.

This particular SDO was granted before the law was changed to require debate and approval in Parliament, so there was no public involvement, consultation or discussion. That means that another area we expected would remain mostly as green and open space is now to be covered with two- and three-storey buildings, including Turtle Hill, south of the hotel, north of the clubhouse and along South Road.

We must ask the Bermuda public if it is okay with them that tourism properties are being replaced by real estate deals. If it’s not okay, it’s time to make your voices heard via letters to Editors of the print and online newspapers, and by submitting an objection letter to the Department of Planning (see application by West End Properties # P0382/13 at Planning. Deadline is Friday 13 December).