“Illegal Construction Of A Concrete Boat Dock”

July 17, 2020

“We are serious about addressing all the outstanding foreshore matters and our actions this week at Rocky Hill Park should leave no one in doubt about our determination to respond decisively to those who willingly flout the law,” Minister of Public Works Lt/Col David Burch said.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [July 17], Minister Burch said, “I would like to address the events of June 23rd, wherein officers within the Estates Department of the Ministry of Public Works were advised that there was illegal construction of a concrete boat dock on the foreshore and seabed belonging to the Government of Bermuda at Rocky Hill Park in St. George’s.

“While on site – the Estates Officer requested confirmation that the Department of Planning approvals were secured, one of the construction workers became quite belligerent and verbally abused the public officer – so much so that officers from the Bermuda Police Service had to be called upon to lend support. This unacceptable behavior was caught on video and eventually went viral – the workers were advised to cease any further development.

“To my astonishment, I was informed the very next day [June 24th] that the construction crew actually poured concrete in the form work. I immediately consulted with the Attorney-General’s Chambers regarding this blatant disregard of the law and on June 25th the person responsible for building this illegal dock was served a Correspondence Before Action.

“The purpose of this letter was to give the developer 14 Days’ Notice to remove the illegal structure – and in the event that there was failure to comply with this Notice, the Government would take the necessary steps to remove the structure, sue for damages and seek costs for having to do so.

“The demolition works were quickly put out to tender with invitations sent to the following six [6] contractors:

  • 1. ECM [Building Blocks]
  • 2. Crisson Construction
  • 3. Island Construction Services Ltd.
  • 4. Overnight Construction
  • 5. Gorham’s MDS
  • 6. Robbie Richardson [Smith Hauling]

“Four of these contractors attended the site meetings, namely Island Construction Services Ltd., ECM [Building Blocks], Gorham’s MDS and Robbie Richardson [Smith Hauling] – with three of them submitting bids. The three in this instance were Island Construction at $2,200.00, Gorham’s MDS at $23,288.00 and Robbie Richardson [Smith Hauling] at $7,895.35. The Government Estimate for this demolition was $10,811.00. So the lowest bidder was selected.

“The 14 days eventually passed and on July 14th, the selected contractor along with Planning and Estates Officers were on site to commence the demolition of the illegal structure. I would like to thank the Bermuda Police Service who provided support on the day to ensure there were no incidents.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, the Government has freehold title to all foreshore and seabed below the high water mark. The foreshore extends seaward from the Mean High Water [MHW] line.

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the Sale of Reclaimed Lands Act 1951, the Minister of Public Works is required to sell or convey either leasehold or freehold estate in the foreshore to adjoining or neighboring owners. The Minister is also empowered to manage all public lands under Section 1 of the Public Lands Act 1984 with Section 8 providing the authority to dispose of land under certain circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, for the avoidance of doubt, property owners of land along the foreshore may have planning permission and a building permit to construct, but still require the agreement of the Minister of Public Works to occupy the land before any work can commence.

Piles and moorings may also have to receive consent from the Department of Marine and Ports. Further, any occupation of the foreshore without such an agreement is considered trespass on Government Land and any person wishing to construct upon and occupy the foreshore is reminded that they need an agreement to document the on-going occupation of the land.

This consent is usually by grant of lease for a period of up to 21 years and requires a one off premium payment or periodic rent. Therefore, the Ministry would recommend any owner wishing to construct a dock or jetty should contact Public Works as early as possible in the process to agree the terms.

Mr. Speaker, against that brief backdrop I would like to address the events of June 23rd, wherein officers within the Estates Department of the Ministry of Public Works were advised that there was illegal construction of a concrete boat dock on the foreshore and seabed belonging to the Government of Bermuda at Rocky Hill Park in St. George’s.

While on site – the Estates Officer requested confirmation that the Department of Planning approvals were secured, one of the construction workers became quite belligerent and verbally abused the public officer – so much so that officers from the Bermuda Police Service had to be called upon to lend support. This unacceptable behavior was caught on video and eventually went viral – the workers were advised to cease any further development.

Mr. Speaker, to my astonishment, I was informed the very next day [June 24th] that the construction crew actually poured concrete in the form work. I immediately consulted with the Attorney-General’s Chambers regarding this blatant disregard of the law and on June 25th the person responsible for building this illegal dock was served a Correspondence Before Action.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this letter was to give the developer 14 Days’ Notice to remove the illegal structure – and in the event that there was failure to comply with this Notice, the Government would take the necessary steps to remove the structure, sue for damages and seek costs for having to do so.

Mr. Speaker, as I am a visual person, and not as familiar with St. Georges as some, I took the opportunity of visiting the site on Sunday June 28th so that I could see for myself the nature of the infraction. On that occasion MP Kim Swan, the MP for the district and the Deputy Speaker, the Hon. Derrick Burgess along with many of those persons who have makeshift slips on the site met me there. Some of them had also received the trespass notices advising of 14 days to remove their structures. I indicated to them that I would consider all the issues and render a decision before the expiry of 14 days and instructed them to take no action until a final decision was made.

I subsequently met with technical officers in the Ministry to ascertain the magnitude of the problem and how it had been ignored for so long. Not wishing to penalize everyone with a blanket approach, I am mindful that many of these slips are makeshift and actually bring character to the area and have existed in some cases for 40 years. However, there is a huge difference between a makeshift wooden structure that can be destroyed by the slightest of storms and a concrete one that is permanent by its very nature. To that end, I have asked my team to prepare license agreements for those persons at Rocky Hill Park so that their presence can be regularized.

Mr. Speaker, I also had an opportunity to speak with the developer who conceded he did not have the requisite approvals and agreed that, although his intention was to build a “public dock” for all to use – it had to come down.

Mr. Speaker, the demolition works were quickly put out to tender with invitations sent to the following six [6] contractors:

  • 1. ECM [Building Blocks]
  • 2. Crisson Construction
  • 3. Island Construction Services Ltd.
  • 4. Overnight Construction
  • 5. Gorham’s MDS
  • 6. Robbie Richardson [Smith Hauling]

Four of these contractors attended the site meetings, namely Island Construction Services Ltd., ECM [Building Blocks], Gorham’s MDS and Robbie Richardson [Smith Hauling] – with three of them submitting bids. The three in this instance were Island Construction at $2,200.00, Gorham’s MDS at $23,288.00 and Robbie Richardson [Smith Hauling] at $7,895.35. The Government Estimate for this demolition was $10,811.00. So the lowest bidder was selected.

Mr. Speaker, the 14 days eventually passed and on July 14th, the selected contractor along with Planning and Estates Officers were on site to commence the demolition of the illegal structure. I would like to thank the Bermuda Police Service who provided support on the day to ensure there were no incidents.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to remind the public of the basic process for securing approval to construct a boat dock. There may be other factors to consider but this is the “layman’s guide”.

  • 1. First, you must seek permission from the Department of Public Lands and Buildings to occupy the Queen’s Bottom.
  • 2. The Chief Surveyor in the Department is the point person who in turn will assign an Estates Surveyor who can guide the applicant through this process.
  • 3. Before liaising with the Chief Surveyor, the applicant will need to provide a plan showing the size and location of where the new dock is to be constructed.
  • 4. After securing authorization from the Department of Public Lands and Buildings, it is highly recommended that the applicant consult with the Department of Marine and Ports to ensure that the new dock will not interfere with existing moorings or be a hazard to navigation. The Harbourmaster should be able to provide assistance in this regard.
  • 5. Authorization from the Department of Public Lands and Buildings and from the Department of Marine and Ports should then be attached to the Development Application Board application and submitted to the Department of Planning.
  • 6. That form can be found on the Governments website at www.gov.bm.
  • 7. If permission is granted, a building permit from the Department of Planning may be required to carry out the actual works.

Mr. Speaker, this incident has highlighted a far wider problem with foreshore protection, user permission and of course outstanding government revenue. This is the start – as I have tasked the team in the Estates Department to carry out a full assessment of all foreshore encroachments with the objective of preparing a full report and a plan of action with recommendations for sorting this issue out. Our Estates team estimates that there are around 552 foreshores that either have illegal docks or docks due for renewal. Although this seems like a large number, the Ministry will be taking the necessary action to address any illegal structures similar to that taken at Rocky Hill Park. There are several that have been approved and are legal structures but the owners have ignored all requests thus far to sign a lease and pay the fee.

Yesterday I signed Correspondence Before Action to the first identified owner who falls into this category – an excerpt from that letter follows “By this letter, this Ministry is offering you the opportunity to regularize your occupation by the 31st of July 2020 by completing the lease and paying the agreed premium.”

“Please note that if you do not take the action required in paragraph 5 above within the timelines set, the Government would have no option but to take concrete steps to safeguard its interests by either issuing trespass proceedings in court against you or causing any developments on the encroached foreshore to be demolished without recourse to you and seek the cost for having to do so.”

Mr. Speaker, let me clarify that not all foreshore developments are illegal as many members of the public have already entered into formal agreements with the Government and legally occupy the foreshore. However, the Ministry is aware that there are a number of unapproved or unlicensed foreshore encroachments. This cannot be tolerated and we encourage anyone without a formal agreement to occupy the foreshore to contact the Estates Department within the Ministry immediately in order to take corrective steps to deal with any unauthorized occupation before the Ministry takes the necessary action to reclaim its land.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is safe to say that we are serious about addressing all the outstanding foreshore matters and our actions this week at Rocky Hill Park should leave no one in doubt about our determination to respond decisively to those who willingly flout the law.

Thank You Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    Here seems to be the problem for contractors thinking the bidding process is fair. 3 companies provided bids, the lowest being Island Construction at $2,200, yet Robby Richardson was $7,895.35. The Government estimate was $10,811 so Island Construction was given the contract and apparently paid $10,000. How is this sensible when a company bid $7,895? Clearly Island Construction seriously underbid to win the contract yet gets paid more than a competing bid. This sounds like a TV show. Bid $1 to get the contract then receive what the Government estimate is. Crazy and unethical if not illegal.

    • JohnBoy says:

      I would think they would get close to the amount that they bid. That would be the right thing to do.

      • Ringmaster says:

        I agree that what they got paid should be close to the bid, but in the HOA the Minister stated the demolition cost $10,000, so IC was paid 5 times their bid. Nice work, not.

        • Ringmaster says:

          I’ll retract my comments as the report I read has been corrected to say the cost was $2,200 against the Government estimate of $10,800.

          • Did’nt know Gorhams had a construction company!

            • Toodle-oo says:

              What would be shocking is if anyone is really surprised at what you don’t know .

            • Sandgrownan says:

              The list of things you don’t know is longer than the list of things you do know ….

  2. Riddells Bay says:

    Good to hear government is cracking down on illegal construction on government shorelines. I hope they address the illegal structures that are permanently built into the Riddells Bay public dock next. No different to the dock mentioned in this article.

    • Birdlegs says:

      This structure is encouraging anti-social behavior, it is time for it to go and we need the police to monitor the dock more frequently.

      • Now Ya Nice says:

        Burch is the Master of Destruction! He was quick to demolish the Shelly Bay concession that was under renovation and would have cost the taxpayers $0 as it was a privately funded partnership. He had Island Construction demolish that one too! 3 years later – what you you have in place for the residents and visitors that use that beach – NOTHING!

  3. Queens bottom says:

    If a person bids $2200 and gets the job, that’s what they get paid to complete the work.

  4. comfortably numb says:

    Perhaps Mr Burch could act as quickly to replace/repair all the broken or missing signage on the waterways of Bermuda, such as Ely’s Harbour where the no wake signs and directional markers have been in a state of sad repair for years. Additionally, how about removing all the wrecked boats on the shorelines of Ely’s Harbour and Mangrove Bay and, presumably, billing the boats’ owners for the removal of said boats. Doesn’t seem like rocket science to me but it might mean one or two Marine and Ports Employees having to leave their base at Dockyard for a few days.

  5. Warrior says:

    Zane is always going to win the bidding wars…. didn’t he that a job the same way earlier this year….

    • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

      Zane don’t care he could have done it for free…2200 paid the men that’s all…

  6. Soapfish says:

    So all dock owners pay rent, even if the dock is decades or centuries old, or govt will come and tear it down? Sounds like a money grab that keeps on giving.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      There’s a grandfather clause , I believe , that exempts docks that are 85(?) years old or more .

  7. Izzypop says:

    Island construction has been under pricing jobs for many years now because he can
    Only reason he joined the PLP may have been to get govt contracted jobs

  8. Triangle Drifter says:

    First, can it be confirmed that what ICS bid is what they got paid?

    Second, the sound bites are good from the Minister. We shall wait & see if if there is action after the noise.

    The dock builder must be well loved by the rest of the makeshift dock builders now. They quietly had their little docks & jettys, not paying a penny to Government for them, now they have the wrath of W&E along with Planning coming down on them.

  9. Joe Bloggs says:

    As soon as I saw the good news article about the community taking over what the Government should have done I knew the good Colonel would tear it down. If it’s not sanctioned by him it cannot be allowed!

  10. Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

    I noticed no one has mentioned the bid from the mysterious Gorhams MDS…23000+…wat de..???

  11. allan says:

    Just for clarification Island construction services DID NOT do the Demolition of shelly bay beach house.

    The Bermuda Government did the demolition themselves get your facts straight.

    THIS IS JUST ONE OF THE many WAYS mischievous RUMOURS GET STARTED.