Video: Minister Grants Fairmont Hotel SDO

October 26, 2023 | 22 Comments

[Updated] Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban held a press conference this morning [Oct 26] to provide an update on the Fairmont Southampton SDO.

Update 11.58am: The press conference is still underway, the Minister announced he will grant the SDO, with some conditions related to the building and environmental measures.

Update 2.35pm: Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban said, “Since announcing the Fairmont Southampton SDO submission was available for review in April of this year, the general public has been captivated by the discussions around this proposed development and rightly so.

“The property’s location, clearly visible from a major road artery, makes it one of Bermuda’s most iconic hotel properties. And so it was no surprise that Bermuda residents from all walks of life have passionately shared their views on the SDO and intensely monitored its development.

“For that, I want to thank all those who took the time to make their submissions regarding the proposed SDO through the proper channels. Any decisions made regarding this SDO will shape the future of our country for generations, and these decisions should only be made with the public’s input. With that said and with much consideration, I have decided to approve the Fairmont Southampton SDO. I wish to share with you my reasoning for doing what is in the National and best interest of the majority of Bermuda’s residents.

“As the Government continues its execution of the Economic Recovery Plan and, by extension, the Economic Development Strategy, it is critical that we remain focused on supporting sustainable economic growth, employment and more significant economic equity for all Bermuda’s residents. Approving this SDO will help strengthen Bermuda’s global visibility and competitiveness as a tourist destination and promote future investments in the island.

“To that end, Price-Waterhouse Coopers has calculated that the economic impact of this project is estimated at 1.4 billion in GDP at present value. Of that number, approximately $300 million is attributable to job creation during construction, and an additional $1.1 billion is attributable to the broader impact of the demand for local services to support the residences. These services include food, wholesale and retail trade, financial and insurance services, real estate, international business and the construction sector.

“The Government also continues working with our tourism partners to increase the island’s hotel inventory. We are adding even more rooms, supporting more airlift and jobs, and the agility to host larger conferences and events in the future. It is no secret that the closing of this Hotel has had a dramatic impact on the availability of airlift to Bermuda. This has not only impacted tourism overall but has had a direct negative impact on the operation and success of other existing properties.

“The successful redevelopment of the Southampton Hotel can potentially make Bermuda more attractive for additional investment in our visitor industry. The recent announcement around the Elbow Beach hotel has made it clear that we, as an island, will benefit from additional beds and additional tourism economic activity that will attract investment. The success of this development should allow Bermuda in the international environment to be seen as an attractive jurisdiction to consider luxury tourism investment.

“As there are some in Bermuda who remain unemployed, I am happy to share that construction related to the SDO will create 100 jobs from the onset of development. Furthermore, it will generate 57 permanent jobs for hospitality workers once in operation. This number is in addition to the jobs created through the use of the previously mentioned local services.

“This project will also support population growth. It is well known that Bermuda is facing population challenges, which include an ageing population, lower fertility rates, and more of our young people moving overseas. The Government aims to increase the population by some 8,400 people over the next five years. In support of this, the properties included for purchase will provide more space for up to 247 residents to live.

“This is important because as more jobs are created, we must ensure an adequate number of places for these workers to live. Our housing market not meeting that demand would result in unsustainable increases in rent, as we are seeing now.

“These benefits have tremendous potential to help improve the lives of many of Bermuda’s residents and their families. While I accept those opposed to the project and its potential impact on the property, as the Minister responsible for the environment, I want to assure the public that I am mindful of their concerns by including conditions in the SDO that will provide the proper checks and balances required to ensure that most concerns are addressed.

“Planning conditions can set out parameters for an approved development or require the approval of more detailed information at various stages of the development. Such conditions are necessary in order to ensure the acceptability of development, such as to offset adverse environmental impacts or mitigate challenges identified within the planning assessment.

“From the outset, the SDO will indicate that each phase of the development must be submitted as an application for final planning permission to the Department of Planning. The conditions will set out the details which must be submitted with each such application, as well as items which must be approved by the Department of Planning prior to the submission of any planning application.

“The first condition of the SDO will set out the duration of the planning permission being granted, which will broadly align with the phasing provided in the SDO submission, namely:

  • Phase 1: Turtle Hill and ‘Golf’ tourism units
  • Phase 2: Residential ‘Hilltop Villas’ and ‘GSL Villas’
  • Phase 3: Residential ‘South Road Town Homes’

“This condition will also stipulate that no units will be occupied (i.e., a Certificate of Completion and Occupancy will not be issued for any units) until the Hotel has been fully refurbished and reopened.

“Before any planning application is submitted, the SDO will require completion of the following:

  • Confirmation of all Protected Conservation Areas by the Minister of Home Affairs.
  • The submission and approval of an outline Conservation Management Plan [CMP] for the entire site, inclusive of timescales for implementation and subsequent detailed CMPs.
  • Improvements to the Railway Trail, namely the replacement of an existing staircase with a ramp, the installation of lighting and the removal of invasive species.
  • The installation of protective fencing around the Historic Protection Area on Turtle Hill.
  • The installation of 10 additional bluebird boxes within the application site.

“The property of this Southampton Hotel is by far not an example of great environmental stewardship. Most of the property is littered with invasives with minimal presence of endemic species of plants or any other endemic species of Bermuda’s life that we know of. Little attention over the years has been made to preserve the native qualities of this open space.

“Conservation of open spaces is not successful by just leaving the land alone, as some might argue. It comes with a carefully laid out plan with objectives clearly set, environment enhancements and, ultimately, sustainable preservation.

“Part of the goal of the conservation management plan is to bring improvement to this situation over time, as the property redevelopment plan will stipulate how the conservation aspect of this property can improve. We must bear in mind that golf courses are not known anywhere, whether locally or internationally, to be places that promote Environmental Protection of species or good environmental management. It is our goal with this property to ensure that, going forward, best practices are employed to ensure that the environmental qualities of the overall development which exists on private property will be greatly enhanced.

“The first planning application to be submitted will need to include details pertaining to the entire site in respect of the following:

  • Full details of the type of tourism accommodation to be provided, including whether units could be used as residences for part of each year.
  • A Design and Access Statement – inclusive of internal vehicular and pedestrian access arrangements to ensure safe movement within the site and public realm designs.
  • A Transport Statement and Travel Plan – to promote sustainable methods of transportation and identify measures to reduce trips by private car.
  • A revised outline parking plan reducing the number of car parking spaces to a practical minimum and identifying the spaces of the northern parking area, which would be continually available to any member of the public.
  • A Strategic Energy Statement – setting out the minimum amount of renewable energy which would be generated within each Phase, the infrastructure which would be installed to achieve this value and measures to reduce energy consumption and impacts on the grid.
  • A strategic Sewage, Water and Wastewater Management Plan – including full details of existing and proposed infrastructure, the new Wastewater Treatment Plant, decommission and removal of the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant and details of the supply of fresh water to the site inclusive of an in-principle agreement with Bermuda Waterworks to supply the entire site.
  • A Sustainable Drainage Strategy – including measures to mitigate run-off, reducing the use of impermeable surfacing and incorporating sustainable measures of flood risk mitigation.
  • A Strategic Waste Management Plan – setting out details for the disposal of trash from the site, including the size and approximate location of containers, bin storage areas, routes for vehicles, timetables for collection and the written approval of the company or Government department who would be responsible for collection.
  • A desk-based Archaeological Assessment which details any archaeological site investigations which may be required together with methodologies to avoid disturbance of, or the proper removal or recording of, any notable artefacts which may be present within any development areas.
  • A Strategic Construction Environmental Management Plan
  • A structural assessment of the nearest properties to the site on Fairmont Drive before and after the construction of Phase 1 to detect impacts from vibration is to be carried out at the expense of the developer.
  • A Public Engagement Strategy – identifying how the local community will be kept updated on the project and informed when development is due to take place and how neighbours can arrange for the developer to arrange for any repairs or cleaning of their property if affected by construction works.
    Once the SDO has been drafted and gazetted, the public will be able to review the complete list of conditions online at the Department of Planning.

“I am confident you will agree that the Government is taking every action to minimise, as much as possible, any adverse environmental impacts and mitigate challenges identified within the planning assessment.

“In closing, the Fairmont Southampton Hotel project stands to be the largest construction project in Bermuda’s history, but we don’t want to be where we were in 2019. We need to plan ahead for a more vibrant future. This SDO will add many desperately needed tourism beds to our inventory, create 100 long-term construction jobs following the Hotel’s reopening, and provide $1.4 Billion of economic impact, which will benefit future generations.”

Update 6.00pm: A spokesperson said, “Westend understands that this was a difficult decision for the Government to make and that many factors had to be considered in coming to this decision. We respect that the SDO process in Bermuda is complex, but necessary; we appreciated the feedback we received from all parties, including the public, and made amendments to our original application in response to that feedback. We are committed to fulfilling the conditions associated with the granting of the SDO, including ensuring that the reopening of the hotel is our foremost priority. We are extremely grateful for this tremendous opportunity and are very much looking forward to moving ahead on the Southampton project.”

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Comments (22)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    Nothing quite like selling Bermuda’s gems to rich foreigners. First Tucker’s Point, now SP, covering green spaces with concrete to sell to more rich foreigners. Having said that, let’s see how far the renovation of the hotel goes before the money runs out.

    • Hey says:

      He said create 47 jobs in hospitality????? WTH. How many were there before the SP closed? Article when SP closed said 750 layoffs which included 500 Bermudians.

  2. Mary Lodge says:

    Bravely done Sir. The country needs that hotel back as a matter of priority.

    • Hey says:

      The hotel is, everyone agrees, but why should you and I pay for someone else to make all the money. This should have never had any tax concessions. The PLP gave away the whole farm and charged you and me for it !

      • Goooaaal says:

        You can invest in the company and make money or provide a needed service

        • Joe Bloggs says:

          Whether or not a Bermudian invests in Gencom, a Florida corporation, is not the point.

          The point is that the PLP Government is selling Bermuda to foreigners and it is giving those foreigners a tax break so that Bermudians do not benefit from the sale of Bermuda to foreigners.

        • hey says:

          We already did invest with the tax concessions. When are we going to get paid from this investment.

    • hey says:

      The Southampton Princess was open and making money for Bermuda before the PLP took power back by stirring up emotions, using the Peoples campaign and bashing the Airport (still proven to be a very good deal for Bermuda, despite the attempts at pretending it isn’t), blocking parliament and more.

      Under the PLP the Southampton Princess closed. The sale should have been conditional on the Hotel remaining open. Remember it closed way before COVID was a thing.

      All they have done that is different to what was before is sell all the land for condos and blocks to be built with huge tax concessions given (that means our cost of living goes up) and the only Bermudians that will benefit are those in the construction industry that get the deal ….hmmmm wondering who that will be.

    • ConcernedMary says:

      LOL….too bad abut the golf course.

  3. Joe Bloggs says:

    I am shocked. Absolutely shocked. Not!

  4. Good says:

    Well done minister. Thank you for at least giving some hope towards the revival of the island workers and economy. The environmental groups have a place but it is not on that property.

  5. David says:

    BREAKING NEWS: Labour government and union approves and supports generous SDO granted to the same wealthy foreigners who withheld owed severance payments to union dues-paying members.

    Reading the comments in support of this SDO and I can’t help but feel so sad for how desperate we as a people have become.

  6. Steve says:

    Don’t forget F&F are happy

  7. Lol says:

    He can certainly waffle. All these details about how they will have to jump through hoops before the next stage. No developer in their right mind is entering into an agreement of this financial magnitude with hoops to jump through. Ohhhhh well they maybe, they must put up 10 more bluebird boxes, not 10 in total, 10 more than they already have. I thought I was going to die laughing! I guess those kind of hoops are doable!!!!!

    He told us nothing except, signed, sealed and delivered! For all the details he went on and on about, where were the real details? Like, when is the proposed opening date? How many guaranteed jobs for Bermudians, is the funding in place?

  8. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The Government aims to increase the population by some 8,400 people over the next five years.”

    I just noticed this. That number looks remarkably similar to the number of high-earning people the PLP Government drove out of Bermuda 15 years ago.

  9. Guy Carri says:

    Strawman argument:

    Using a reason to approve as attracting “8,400 people over the next 5 years”

    And so this is less than 250 homes for them…OVER 20 YEARS!!!!!! Only another +8,000 to house…in 5 years!

  10. Hilarious! says:

    Mayor Adams of New York City is offering plane tickets to “migrants.” Bermuda should look into getting those fresh faces eager to work in Bermuda.

  11. Triangle Drifter says:

    The biggest losers will be the yet to be born future generations.

    Green space destroyed is forever destroyed.

    For short term gain Burt and Co are very happy.

    Keep watching, very shortly Burt and co will drop out of politics, cash in and disappear off of the island, just like their mentors.

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