The Acting Minister has approved building on the piece of Agricultural Reserve land on the site of the Pink Beach re-development claiming that it is a matter of “National Interest”. BEST feels strongly that the term “National Interest” is becoming over-used, and is often empty of any real meaning beyond what is convenient at the time.
In fact, we think the Minister missed a ready opportunity to look out for Bermuda’s national interest when he permitted the new owners of the Pink Beach property to remove Tourism-zoned property, including Bermuda’s iconic Pink Beach, from Bermuda’s stock of publicly accessible beaches. The plan is for this extraordinary beach to be used only by the new owners for their personal use and for their private guests. Not even the hotel guests will be able to trespass onto the owner’s newly carved off 5.5 acres to enjoy the beach, it has been transformed from a tourist amenity to a private enclave.
The blow to National Interest is compounded in that a one-acre plot of land designated as Agricultural Reserve — a scarce resource,hence it conservation zoning — is being sacrificed to development despite the owner’s prior pledge to respect and even “rehabilitate” the agricultural land.
It might have been different if the development now slated for the agricultural land was on a plot whose original boundaries limited its revenue potential. But in this case the limits were self imposed by the owner who himself drew the boundaries when carving off his private 5.5 acres. Had he been a little less generous to his own interests, there would have been no need to apply to develop protected agricultural land; and the Acting Minister, rather than standing up for Bermuda’s interests, then caved in to the owner’s interests for which true National Interests have been forfeited.
For this and future instances, it would be helpful for us to have a list of criteria by which National Interest is to be gauged. It is an unhealthy state of affairs when, as in this case, National Interest appears arbitrary and somewhat capricious.