Recently in Environment Category

It's hard to remember any issue which has united such a diverse group of people in Bermuda in opposition as the Tucker's Point SDO. The Uighurs is perhaps the closest I can think of, but even that didn't draw out publicly traditional PLP support in public opposition.

The protest today promises to be big, and it will be tough for the PLP to use their normal 'angry white mob' line against this one.

I'm hoping the Senate kicks this back to the House and all sides can come back to the table and reach some sort of a compromise position. The problem for TPC is that the scale of their economic problems appear to be so large that anything less than this massive proposed development will be insufficient to prevent bankruptcy.

I wouldn't be opposed to construction on the existing brownfield sites on the property, such as the top of Ship's Hill, but many of the areas are too environmentally sensitive, and the area would become too crowded.

There's not a lot of good options on the table, and Bermuda should support Tucker's Point and our existing properties as much as they can, but this request has been so horribly managed by both the developer and the Government and is too big of an ask. The overwhelming public opposition can't be ignored.

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For what it's worth, with the Tucker's Point SDO up for debate today, I don't support it. Certainly not in its current form, and potentially not at all.

This is a bail out of private investors and an HSBC loan, and neither pose a systemic risk to the Bermuda economy. Tucker's Point is an important tourism development and everyone wants it to succeed, but that will arguably be more achievable not by cutting down huge swaths of protected land and selling it to non-Bermudians so the investors can add assets to their balance sheet, but by having HSBC take a hair cut on the hotel loan, restructure it and then the economics of the hotel work better.

If Government bails out this loan by HSBC will they bail out, or require HSBC to restructure, residential loans for Bermudians which may be in trouble for example (the banks already do this I know, but I mean require)? This deal looks like a one way street with Government securing little in exchange for what Tucker's Point and HSBC are asking.

Simply giving them more real estate to sell for a very uncertain outcome doesn't strike me as worth it at all.

The US bail-out, while you can disagree on it, at least was built around an apparent systemic risk from the banking sector. This is just a bad investment if you ask me.

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Emerging PLP hatchet man Marc Bean is getting some attention for using the Senate floor to call environmental group BEST a 'muppet show', and then after being called out has upped the ante with a 'pimps and prostitutes' reference.

I feel compelled to weigh in here because I seem to recall a couple of rent-a-protestors being sent over to harass my employer after I used the term 'media whore' in reference to the outgoing Premier in 2007 and his love of mugging for the camera.

I'm glad that the PLP has come around and implicitly acknowledged that I was trailblazing, and I must say I chose much more interesting language than 'pimp' or 'prostitute', which is Mr. Bean's primary offense.

His attack lacks creativity and originality. It's just crude, and lazy. Simply throwing out 'pimps and prostitutes' is really missing an opportunity to add a little creative license. He needs to get a bit more original and creative.

You see, the beauty of the term 'media whore' versus 'pimps and prostitutes' is that it says so much with two simple words. You know precisely what a media whore is as soon as you hear it (I didn't create the term but it's an all time favourite). Its beauty is its all encompassing brevity. Pimps and prostitutes doesn't have that same effect, it's low hanging fruit

These attacks are also weak on the substance on a guy like Stuart Hayward and BEST. Stuart, who I don't really know other than his public profile, is clearly committed to the cause of environmentalism - throughout his life. To try and suggest that he is some tool of the ever expanding Combined Opposition makes the pimps and prostitutes allegation more inflammatory than illuminating. Stuart has been an independent MP and an equal opportunity critic who admittedly has been applying a lot of heat to the PLP in the past few years. But he's got a lot of company in that regard.

Back to Mr. Bean. In 2007 the now Senator then candidate was previewing his flair for the overdramatic by calling the UBP 'neo-fascists' who wanted to lock everyone up when they (rightly) called for urgent action to arrest violent gang crime.

At the time I gave Mr. Bean a new award, the DIngbat of the Day, for his stupid and incendiary comments. Later that day I received an email from Mr. Bean saying that I was being disrespectful by calling him a Dingbat.

After a short exchange I decided to amend the post to "Hyberbole of the Day" as it was meant more in jest than an insult. The 'dingbat' can still be seen in the filename of the post.

So I would suggest that Mr. Bean take a look in the mirror and do a little self-assessment, ask himself what his reaction would be if someone called him a muppet or a pimp and a prostitute for expressing his political views. I suspect he'd argue that like my dingbat reference it was disrespectful and unhelpful for generating civil discourse in our country.

He'd be right.

But, judging by his release today that UBP Senate Leader Michael Dunkley is 'ignorant and arrogant' - an accusation that I might add would immediately send the PLP thought police into a frenzy if leveled by (white) Michael Dunkley against anyone in the (black) PLP - he's got a long way to go.

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An aspiring environmental prosecutor writes:

A gigantic sand sculpture will grace Front Street as a part of Wednesday's Harbour Nights. Let's hope it's made out of debris from Club Med. Because if it is made out of beach sand, it will be a clear violation of the law which forbids the removal of any sand from the beaches.

The reader is correct I think. I believe the Act that covers it is the Sports, Camping and Recreational Areas Act 1977:


Offences

6 Any person who within a declared area—
(a) wilfully takes, removes or destroys any plant, tree or shrub, or makes any excavation or removes any sand, stone or soil; or

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I've been remiss in posting a link which was sent to me a few weeks ago to a new blog from the BAMZ crew.

It's called Bermuda BREAM (Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping Programme).

I guess "Bermuda Bibbler" was already taken.

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It dawned on me today that the solution to BELCO's new power plant location controversy is obvious.

They should:

1) Buy a plot of environmentally sensitive protected coastal woodland
2) Make a donation.
3) Apply for a (not-so) Special Development Order.

Done. Problem solved.

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A reader with his experience with a wind turbine:

In reference to the planning application for the wind turbine installation. I am all for seeking and using environmentally friendly energy resources. My only concern with the wind turbine it that during a normal breezy day the turbine is extremely quiet and unnoticeable, but during times of moderately higher winds the "blades" of the turbine make an extreme amount of very high pitch noise!

I know this because I had installed one for test purposes on my own property and found that on windy days (sometimes) but definitely nights I had to shut it off as it would keep everyone in the immediate area including myself awake!

This was a very expensive unit definitely not the bottom of the barrel but it was 5 years ago so maybe things have changed. I definitely wouldn't recommend this type of energy generator for an area where you have anyone living near you.

I've been told that they're getting quieter, but I can imagine that if their use became widespread you could have a serious noise pollution problem.

In this case Mr. Miller applied for a one year test period as well. I'm sure his neighbours would have notified Planning if noise was a problem.

There are lots of issues to consider for new power sources (solar seems best suited to Bermuda I'd think), but 'unattractive' seems like a low one on the Ministry of the Environment's hierarchy of concerns.

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A reader writes on the wind turbines:

While I do agree that the application for this should have been turned down, for me it is not the unsightly aspect that is unacceptable but how many birds are killed or maimed by these. That seems to not even have been part of the minister’s concern. what meaning of “environment” is she using, i wonder?

Not something that I'd considered, but at least that would have been understandable from an environmental perspective.

The more I think about the 'unattractive' reasoning, the more silly it seems.

I mean, really. If we're rejecting wind turbines because they're an unattractive method of delivering energy, then surely we should be banning above ground power lines as well...which can be seen in the bottom left corner of the background of the proposed wind turbine photo.

micro_turbine.jpeg

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Here's one for the ages, the Ministry of the Environment, henceforth known as the Ministry of Exterior Decorating, rejected an application for wind turbines (aka enviromentally clean energy) on a residence because they were...get this...unattractive.

This is of course the same Ministry (or perhaps more accurately Minister) that issued a Special Development Order to destroy woodland and coastal reserve at Southlands though.

The article in the paper today sums up the incoherence and inconsistency of planning decisions. But it boils down to the age old saying of "It's not what you know it's who you know."

If I were Mr. Miller, I'd move my wind turbine to a protected coastal or woodland reserve and make it 10 stories high so that it violates every height restriction - then it's sure to get approved.

Oh, and most importantly, pay your membership dues and resubmit the planning application through a preferred developer (here or here).

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The Southlands saga continues, with news breaking late last week that Government is looking to shift the project to Morgan's Point.

I think most people would welcome the mega-development not blighting South Shore as the Government has authorised by ramming down the public's throat an SDO voiding all zoning laws, but the sudden shift raises a lot of questions, which Denis Pitcher covers well in his post from a couple of days ago.

The obvious implication here is that the results of the heavy pre-election canvassing that have been going on across the island recently, but also in the key battle grounds in Warwick, revealed that the PLP are in danger of losing Warwick seats because of the blatant disregard they had for the public interest over this project.

The Ministers - including she of the Environment - always acted as the agents for the developers, abdicating their responsibility to represent the public.

As one person said to me the other day, the general sentiment towards the PLP MPs in the Warwick constituencies has been 'stick it in your tunnel'....hence, the sudden change of heart.

The release of the potential Morgan's Point move to the press has been carefully orchestrated as an effort by PLP Warwick MPs (excluding the Premier presumably), to respond to the concerns of their constituents (after ignoring them for the better part of a year). Isn't it interesting what the prospects of an election can do?

So, in an effort to salvage some votes, we're now seeing the Government trying to do some sort of a swap with Southlands and Morgan's point.

It's not a bad concept, except Government holds no cards here now after issuing the SDO. The developers could start digging the Southlands tunnel tomorrow presumably to leverage this up and extract more concessions form the people of Bermuda in exchange for moving to Morgan's Point.

With an SDO in hand and a Government with a political problem, they're rubbing their hands together with delight I'm sure.

Government so desperately wants to save face over this now and salvage something (in Warwick in particular) so that the Premier can swoop in and claim credit for the great compromise, listening to the community, respecting sustainable development etc. that they'll probably say yes to an unattractive deal.

I'm pretty convinced it will get done, because the PLP website is linking to 3 press stories on the topic.

But the problems here are massive:

I can't see the Southlands/Jumeirah developers paying to clean up the pollution, so the taxpayers will foot that one.

Some sort of legal indemnity will have to be worked out so the developers/owners can't be sued for any health problems that may arise - back on the taxpayers absent some very well crafted legislation (which this Government isn't known for).

By needing to get this done to solve a political problem the PLP Goverment are likely to accept a deal that isn't as attractive for the people of Bermuda as it could have been if Morgan's Point was open to a competitive bidding process and Southlands hadn't been rezoned.

Instead, we now have Southlands being given preferred access (after the PLP chased away a development at Morgan's Point immediately after taking over in 1998).

This is a mess. Moving the project away from Warwick is the optimal solution, but we'll have to wait to see just what is put on the table as an alternative, because the Government aren't holding the cards. They have a massive political problem they need to solve, and see Morgan's Point as the answer.

That's not a good combination for the people of Bermuda.

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Very interesting article in the Rocky Mountain News today.

It's not everyday that you find a connection to Bermuda out there, but the Aspen city council just turned down a request for the first new luxury hotel development in 20 years....because it wasn't sustainable.

How sensible. That decision didn't include have to consider overturning all sorts of long-standing environmental restrictions either from what I can tell.

But by a 3-2 vote, the council ruled that it would not approve new hotel rooms at any cost. At 175,000 square feet, the lodge would have been the second-biggest building in town.

Besides 80 hotel rooms, the project also would have included four residential condos at 4,000 square feet each and 21 fractional ownership suites.

The hotel also promised to rise to the standard and price point of the town's three flagship lodges: The Hotel Jerome, St. Regis and the five-star Little Nell.

"We cannot only court the high end, and that's what this project did," Aspen City Councilman Jack Johnson said. "This sort of project and this sort of economy we have is not sustainable."

In the past 30 years, Aspen has gone from a town that nearly elected Hunter S. Thompson as sheriff in 1970 to a place where private planes line the runway at the airport and the average single-family home costs nearly $6 million.

Although the local affordable-housing program is the envy of other mountain resorts, reasonable rental accommodations are still a rare find. Local employers, from existing hotels to the school district, still have a tough time finding and keeping employees.

With much of the work force living in communities down the valley, a traffic jam chokes the entrance to town every workday.

Mick Ireland, who has been Aspen's mayor since June, said he could not approve a project that would further stress the housing and traffic problems. While there is a need for more moderately priced lodging in Aspen, Ireland said the need for more $1,000-per-night rooms was nil.

"I think we have to think about scaling back our mission," Ireland said. "In the resort-community balance, I think we've lost our balance."

The similarities seem quite compelling. I'd say Aspen made the right call, and our guys blew it. But this was always a done deal, with the Premier and his Government acting as the developers' chief marketer, forgetting that they represent the public interest, not private ones.

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I didn't catch the Government broadcast on the Southlands project, but a reader did, and he also caught the Brown Bag Lunch news segment:

Wondering if you saw VSB news tonight?

They had a clip of the Premier on one of his “invite only” lunch dates describing the tunnel at the Southlands project. He said that the tunnel is going to be for tourists (hotel guests) to go under South Shore road. He then went on to say that the South Shore road would go up and over the tunnel that allows the tourists to get to the beach. He also explained that this was in the drawings “he saw”. His final point was that the Southlands objectors were essentially making up lies so that people would object to the construction.

The funny thing about this clip is that we had just watched the 20 minute video produced by the Bermuda Government with Premier Brown himself, Minster Butterfield, Minister Lister and a host of others explaining the Southlands development and SDO, in which they showed the plans including the tunnel along South Shore road in detail. AND, OF COURSE, the tunnel is for cars not for tourists!! As a matter of fact, Minister Lister dedicated 3 minutes of the video to explain the tunnel in more detail (18 ft high for all trucks and cranes in Bermuda, sidewalks, open roof at the junctions, lighted, etc.).

I am shocked (I guess I shouldn’t be too shocked anymore) that as Minister of Tourism and Premier, Dr. Brown was either unaware of the tunnel (as Minister of Tourism shouldn’t he know what the hotel looks like…especially as controversial as this one!) or he was just blatantly lying about the project.

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From the better late than never file, I've uploaded the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce's Southlands and South Shore Segment, broadcast on Monday July 2nd in 3 segments (minus the first 60 or so seconds which I missed):

Part 1



Part 2


Part 3

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tunein.jpg

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