Around 40 neighbouring residents spelled out some of their objections to a 125-room Mandarin Oriental hotel and condo development in Beach Bay during a meeting of the Central Planning Authority Wednesday.
The $167 million St. James Point Resort features two nine-storey buildings and an assortment of villas and cottages scattered across a large slice of beachfront land in the Bodden Town district. The resort will feature 100 hotel rooms and 25 residences, several restaurants, pools and back-of-house facilities.
During Wednesday’s hearing, residents outlined concerns about the size and scale of the development on a previously pristine stretch of waterfront. Concerns were also raised about beach access and the impact on turtle nesting.
The designs include several properties on the beach itself and the Department of Environment has recommended that they be moved.
Other residents raised concerns about the proximity of the resort’s two waste water treatment plants to their properties, and the impact of noise and traffic from the hotel on what they consider a quiet residential district.
Kerry Forbes, one of the objectors, told the Central Planning Authority that the tranquillity of the area would be lost if the resort project goes ahead.
“We need to take a step back and realise this is not just about today, but it is about the future, for generations to come,” she said. “Who are we developing for?
“This is my country. I love it and I don’t want to see it destroyed completely.”
While some objectors were opposed entirely to the resort, others requested tweaks to the design to lessen the impact on surrounding residences.
Several were concerned about the proximity of ‘back of house’ operations buildings to their properties.
Chris Saunders, MLA for Bodden Town West, said he believed the community was generally in support of some development in the area. But he suggested more should have been done to work with the residents and factor in their concerns.
“There is no objection against a development there,” he said. “It is the size and scale and the type of development that is causing concern.”
He said the island needs to be open to investment but outlined his belief that developers should work in partnership with the community in the planning stages.
Spencer Levine, of RAL Development Services, and local architect Andrew Gibb, representing developer Melkonian Capital Management, outlined some of the features of the development in a presentation to the planning authority.
Levine insisted it would not be a “big box”-style design that sought to maximise unit size. Though he acknowledged the two main buildings topped out at nine stories, he said they “feathered down” in a staggered design that mimicked the action of a wave.
Asked if the developer would consider reducing the building height, Gibb said the design was fundamental to the concept.
“We believe it is part of the experience that guests are prepared to drop in excess of $2,000-a-day RevPAR [revenue per available room] for,” he said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Levine and Gibb said they had listened to the input of the residents and were willing to consider “refining” the development.
One area where there did not seem to be flexibility, however, is the properties on the beach. The design includes several beach cottages, a pool and a walkway that the Department of Environment recommended be moved.
Levine said the beach properties were a small but important part of the design. He said Mandarin Oriental was an eco-sensitive hotelier and the developer would work with the DoE to meet the guidelines for beachfront property.
The Central Planning Authority was also sifting through around 30 letters of objection to the plan from neighbouring residents, submitted in advance of Wednesday’s meeting.
Residents in Cedar Valley expressed concerns about the source of funding for the project, and whether there were any guarantees that it would be completed,
“The development on a smaller scale has been trying to get off the ground for years and despite huge concessions from government has just never got anywhere. Have any checks been made to verify the developers have the wherewithal to complete the project in a timely manner?”
The Central Planning Authority was expected to announce its decision by Thursday.