The Corporation of Hamilton’s vision of the waterfront in Hamilton. The Municipalities Act would have prevented CoH going ahead with its proposal.  *File photo
The Corporation of Hamilton’s vision of the waterfront in Hamilton. The Municipalities Act would have prevented CoH going ahead with its proposal. *File photo

New rules governing the Municipalities due to be tabled this week would have prevented the Corporation of Hamilton from pressing ahead with its present waterfront development plans.

The Municipalities Amendment Act 2013 will ensure that for the first time all leases granted by Municipalities for over 21 years will go before Parliament, Minister Michael Fahy told the Bermuda Sun.

The Minister will also have the final say in projects over $1 million and matters of ‘national interest’ as part of a major overhaul of the Municipalities that could be passed in the new few weeks.

In December 2012, the Corporation of Hamilton signed a 262-year lease with Allied Development Partners to develop the waterfront, without consulting Government about the project.

Mr Fahy: “The amendments that will be tabled this week would have prevented what has happened regarding the waterfront.

“All leases, including for the first time ones signed by the Municipalities, will have to be approved by Parliament.”

The Minister added: “The Government does not take a position on which plans are the best for Hamilton.

“We do not have any favourites.

“We recognize that the waterfront does need to be developed and we said we were keen to work with the Corporation in respect of that development.

“But all sorts of infrastructure issues need to be ironed out first like what do we do with the docks?

“The Ombudsman has raised questions about the Request For Proposal granted to Allied and we are very keen to see the outcome of that investigation.”

The new reforms will give Government more oversight of how the Municipalities are run, but revenue from wharfage fees will be returned to the Municipalities as of April next year.

The new rules will also see the abolition of aldermen and bring about a change in the voting system in the next Municipality elections.

The latter move has attracted criticism from some opposition MPs as being ‘a power grab’.

But Minister Fahy told the Sun: “We do not want to get involved in the day-to-day nitty-gritty.

“I’m sure the Corporations will feel they are being impinged on, but these changes have to be made. 

“And you have to remember that the previous Government wanted to turn them into quangos.”

He added: “We want to give a vote to the rate payer, but this is not a property vote.

“And we want to protect the residential vote by way of ensuring there is a minimum number of councillors elected by the residents in the City. 

“We are looking for a way to protect the minority interest and have implemented a number of controls that should give comfort to those who think this move is giving the businesses priority over the residents.

“We have no interest in doing this.

“It is not a power grab but an opportunity to have a say.”