Royal Gazette: No to residential units at Fairmont Southampton
Letter to the Editor:
The Bermuda National Trust is pleased that the renovation of the Fairmont Southampton hotel will apparently begin in the near future, which will bring much needed economic benefit to the island and restore hundreds of jobs.
BNT strongly supports the Bermuda tourism industry, which is such an important part of our economy and of our cultural heritage. For this reason, we understand that building additional fractional tourism units on the Fairmont Southampton site may be necessary to make the hotel renovation more financially viable and to increase visitor beds and local job opportunities.
However, we are extremely concerned with the proposed new Special Development Order, which would double the number and height of the buildings proposed in 2009 from 130 to 261 units, some of them six storeys high, saturating all the remaining open space on the site — apart from the golf course — in concrete.
Our primary concern is with the addition of the 147 proposed residential units, most of which will be sold to foreign buyers as second homes and would bring very limited benefit to Bermuda and Bermudians. Gencom will gain from the sale of these units, but everyone else would lose, as they would have a severe negative impact on the tourism amenity at Fairmont Southampton and our environment overall. The golfing experience and the views from and of the hotel will be impacted, and the infrastructure and facilities of the whole site will be overburdened. In exchange, Bermuda gets a short-term bump in construction business, and some low-paid cleaning jobs.
It is important to note that the land on which these residential units are proposed is zoned “recreational”, which does not allow for residential development. That is why Gencom needs a Special Development Order. It argues that the residential element of the development is essential for its economic viability. But it is simply not sustainable for Bermuda, as it may damage the visitor appeal of the hotel and fractional tourism units, which generate much greater income for the island and provide attractive careers for Bermudians. What is more, having massive construction projects in the immediate vicinity of the hotel over a 20-year time frame would also do enormous damage to the hotel’s visitor experience.
Gencom is only doing what companies do: trying to maximise profits. That is to be expected. It is up to the Government of Bermuda, guided by the voices of Bermudians, to determine the appropriate parameters in which it is allowed to do that, weighing up the delicate balance between the economic benefits of development and protection of the natural beauty on which our tourism offering and the quality of life of all Bermuda residents depend.
BNT strongly believes that to allow the Special Development Order as proposed would not respect that balance. We urge the people of Bermuda to make their voices heard loudly against the residential portion of this proposed development.
Bermuda National Trust