FRIDAY, APR. 1: Tucker’s Point won its Special Development Order from Parliament this week.

But was it the right thing to do?

The only people who can prove it now are the people who run Tucker’s Point.

They’ve got to make it work. They have to be able to show their SDO is helping Bermuda, building tourism and maintaining jobs for Bermudians.

Staving off their own bankruptcy, or improving the cash value of land they sit upon, is not enough.

Public scepticism about the SDO process is high. Concern about the loss of our open space is growing. So are fears that development is destroying our “tourism product”.

So far, the transaction has been almost entirely in favour of Tucker’s Point. Bermuda has given them a lot (and in return, is expected to be grateful for a gift of open space that was, in fact, already open space.)

Now it’s their turn to show the deal was worthwhile.

This was the first SDO that was officially approved by Parliament rather than by executive fiat.

It was an encouraging taste of openness. It dangled in front of people the possibility that it could actually be defeated – the hope that our brand of democracy isn’t itself a kind of bulldozer operation.

The end result, of course, is that bulldozers will be back in operation at Tucker’s Point. And there were several key problems with the process that – the next time around – ought not to be repeated.

The most obvious thing missing from the debate was a frank assessment of Tucker’s Point financial situation. The Government maintained it was private company information.

This was a shameful omission: You cannot argue that for a major planning and environmental concessions based on financial desperation without publicly producing hard information about what your financial situation really is.

That was Big Hole Number One when it came to a fair and open process. The second occurred in the Senate.

After pulling the much-discussed original proposal when defeat seemed certain, the Government introduced a substantially changed version with no time for public scrutiny.

There was no time for any meaningful questioning or debate over the changes that included, quite bafflingly, the complete abandonment of the entire 70-unit hotel addition.

Then, when the SDO issue came back to the House of Assembly, the Opposition complained they were given a copy of the changed legislation just 20 minutes before debate began.

The political bulldozer was back in operation. The process was open – but only to a point. The changes increased worries and confusions about what this SDO — or any SDO for that matter — is really about.

With the elimination of the 70 hotel units, Opposition Finance Spokesman Bob Richards quite rightly complained, the SDO became “solely about creating private homes….a property development masquerading as a tourism development.”

And it is hard to come up with a straight answer.

As the Bermuda Sun has detailed this week, there is now a long history in Bermuda of SDOs that have come to nothing – rushed through in an emergency bid to help tourism, but ending in a pile of rubble and crumbled expectations.

Public tolerance is wearing thin for Special Development Orders that promise to help Bermuda but end up doing little or nothing.

The process has become more open than before. The public will demand even greater openness and accountability in future.

Is the whole point of these things simply to enhance the underlying property value for the owners?

Is there any meaningful or measurable gain for the country as a whole? It’s now up to Tucker’s Point to convince us.

Special report: Special Development Orders