Government should be commended for “cutting our (the taxpayers’) loses” and discontinuing this housing development, but the cessation of BHC development should not be positioned as an opportunity for private development exclusive of the Development Applications Board (DAB) approval process.
This development is already in violation of several aspects of the spirit and letter of the law. As the Ombudsman has verified in her recent Report on SDOs, the Grand Atlantic scheme as a development project that is “major”, and will have a “significant adverse effect on the environment” should have had a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done BEFORE it was given approval. Whatever engineering studies were done do not constitute an EIA and without an EIA, the scheme should not have been granted an SDO.
Because Grand Atlantic was granted an SDO, it appears that a) it avoided the scrutiny of the Development Applications Board, who would undoubtedly have called for an EIA, and b) the development escapes the scrutiny of the Department’s Enforcement Officer, who should be monitoring and reporting or halting un-permitted activities such as quarrying, transport of quarried materials to off-site locations or of building demolition materials from offsite locations, and deep pit excavation to bury off-site derived demolition materials.
Mr. Lopes should have to go back to the Department of Planning if he intends to deviate from what he was given permission to do. The Minister has already admitted that plans for the development have gone missing, thus depriving the public of vital information about the development and thwarting the efforts of neighbours and BEST to fulfill their duty as citizens to monitor what is going on at the site. Without having access to the plans, the public has no way to know where this new cluster of buildings will go and where a hotel will fit — we should not forget that this development was on land zoned for tourism.
As this development gives every indication that it is no longer a tourism development, it no longer merits the Ministerial privileges and lax oversight that attends an SDO. So far, this development has been a visual, environmental and economic disaster and the cessation of BHC engagement should be seized as an opportunity to preserve this highly valuable piece of South Shore.