Opinion Column: Cole Simons On Morgan’s Point

September 25, 2010

simons-cole[Written by Cole Simons, UBP Shadow Environment Minister]

Is anybody concerned that the people of Bermuda have had no say in the largest land development project since the airport construction in World War II?

What I’m talking about here is the development of Morgan’s Point.

The PLP Government last week committed the island to the total redevelopment of its 250 acres, arguably the last great resort development opportunity in Bermuda, without any public consultation.

That same week, people learned through The Royal Gazette that Government had approved preliminary designs for an 18-hole golf course on the site.

How we backed our way into what is now billed as a “$2 billion development” is a national disgrace if you believe Bermuda should take care to give itself the best possible options for the future.

The United Bermuda Party long called for a Southlands national park and we supported the protests that led to that result. But that great success should never have been allowed to affect the potential of Morgan’s Point.

Unfortunately, the Morgan’s Point situation will stand as a classic example of bad public planning, wherein Premier Brown’s mishandling of Southlands shut down possibilities at Morgan’s Point.

This haphazard approach to a national development challenge is typical of the PLP Government’s handling of the country’s affairs, and it stands as a major contrast to the United Bermuda Party’s approach to Morgan’s Point in the 1990s.

At that time, the UBP Government made public consultation the backbone of its planning for this prime piece of real estate, which it described as the “crown jewel” of the former military properties.

Working meetings were held in which members of the public helped put together a land-use strategy to “provide new opportunities for Bermudian businesses, individuals and community needs, economic growth to create jobs, generate foreign earnings and produce revenue to government… in ways that enhance the quality of life.”

Dozens of stakeholders, from financial institutions to community groups, also participated in developing the strategy.

The eventual “Broad Use Plan” for the former bases was distributed through The Royal Gazette. Once approved by the Legislature, the Government invited would-be developers through an open tender to draft plans for Morgan’s Point.

Five groups, all combining local and overseas members, put forward proposals. Government, through the Bermuda Land Development Company, selected one and introduced it to the public before soliciting feedback at more public meetings.

The point I want to make here is twofold:

1) In a government project of any size, particularly one as rare and big as Morgan’s Point, public input is essential. Why shouldn’t people be consulted about the use of precious island resources? After all, Morgan’s Point is public land. But this has not been the case at Morgan’s Point.

2) The failure to tender Morgan’s Point has deprived Bermuda of a competitive process that could have brought forward other visions and plans for the property. Instead, the developers, whose original plans and vision had nothing to do with Morgan’s Point, were compelled to put together a scheme for the whole site – a massively different project from the hotel development they wanted to build at Southlands.

That’s not their fault. They landed at Morgan’s Point through no fault of their own and we in the United Bermuda Party will do whatever we can to help them build the best possible resort. But thanks to the PLP’s mistakes at Southlands, the current arrangement is like a shotgun wedding, and all Bermuda should be asking if we’ve done the right thing.

Here’s one concrete example where PLP Government bungling has sold Bermuda short at Morgan’s Point.

The development group selected by the United Bermuda Party Government was prepared to commit up to$12 million to clean the environment at Morgan’s Point, provided the Government cap its liability for environmental costs at that figure. That commitment fell away when the new PLP Government caused the developers to walk away in 1999. Now, it looks certain the Government will have to use taxpayers’ money to pay for the whole clean-up, now bound to cost millions more than a decade ago.

Bermuda needs to be at the top of its game when it comes to planning the future. One way to make sure that happens is to keep the people involved.

Share via email

Read More About

Category: All, Politics

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Gutted... says:

    With so little open space left in Bermuda and the current administration perfectly prepared to ignore laws to protect it and to become developers of open space themselves… the Morgans Point issue is indeed a very sad testament to the fact that this administration is the worst we have ever had in Bermuda. When it comes to development in Bermuda our PLP Government is greasing and kissing their own palms and that of their dear friends and locking down the last of real open space in Bermuda, in cement. In my opinion, the vast majority of Morgans Point should be public park land, not a golf course that people have to pay to use but returned to the people of Bermuda as open space for future generations to enjoy.

    • Logic76 says:

      That’s a nice idea and all, but who do you suppose is going to pay $2 million for a public park? I don’t know if you remember, but that was the estimate on the costs to rid the land of the waste that was left behind by the U.S. after WWII. The only people who are going to front the costs of the cleanup are the same people who want to develop an 18-hole golf resort. As far as I’m concerned the land at Southlands has been protected and there are plans being made to cleanup the waste-filled, stagnant Morgan’s Point. Nobody is willing to pay $2 million for a public park and this country cannot afford such an undertaking.

  2. Logic76 says:

    Even I have to say, the PLP are corrupt as ever but they’re pretty much “damned if they do; damned if they don’t.”

  3. Whyanothergolfcourse says:

    Why turn this land into yet another golf course when Bermuda already has eight courses? Most were empty last time I was there, inspecting the Morgan’s Point site for the remediation works.

    Can you fill the existing now hotels? I doubt it.

    Part resort, part residential with yacht moorings and more importantly a commercial office development which would provide real and permanent employment.

    A ninth golf course would be a crass waste of land and would not maximise the economic benefits for the future. Think of the development in terms of Bermuda’s second city.

    I was amazed such a large site had been left for so long when nowhere else on earth is land at a greater premium.

    • Logic76 says:

      Why turn the land into another golf course? Because that is what the targeted market wants. I thought that would have been obvious, seeing how Fairmont Southampton has a deal with Riddell’s Bay allowing their guests to play for reduced prices. The site has been left for so long because it is, essentially, a barrel of headaches. There is a foot of aviation fuel at the surface of the water inside the inlets and caves, tons of dumped waste, chemicals, cars, bikes, and boats. There is also a number of abandoned warehouses and buildings. The cost of simply clearing the land is over $2 million dollars. In my opinion, whoever is fronting the money to cleanup that environmental disaster can do whatever they please with the land.

      • whyanothergolfcourse says:

        The remediation actually isn’t technically complicated, it’s just that its in the middle of the Atlantic and this is rather awkward. Could be done piecemeal, bit by bit over time, although there is a lot of work. Very interesting project and sure beats doing the same in some grotty hole in East London. Good luck with it.

  4. Whyanothergolfcourse says:

    Why turn this land into yet another golf course when Bermuda already has eight courses? Most were empty last time I was there, inspecting the Morgan’s Point site for the remediation works.

    Can you fill the existing now hotels? I doubt it.

    Part resort, part residential with yacht moorings and more importantly a commercial office development which would provide real and permanent employment.

    A ninth golf course would be a crass waste of land and would not maximise the economic benefits for the future. Think of the development in terms of Bermuda’s second city . . . with public green spaces.

    I was amazed such a large site had been left for so long when nowhere else on earth is land at a greater premium.