WEDNESDAY, MAR. 16: Senators have been deluged with hundreds of calls and e-mails over the controversial expansion plans at Tucker’s Point resort.

The future of the development — and perhaps the resort itself — will now be decided on Friday with the debate pushed back two days.

The decision appears to lie in the hands of the three independent Senators: Dr. Walwyn Hughes, a 16-year veteran of the upper chamber, Joan Dillas Wright, CEO of the Bermuda Hospitals Board and former schoolteacher Carol Ann Bassett.

The five PLP Senators are expected to vote to approve the Special Development Order to build new condos and hotel rooms on the hillside overlooking Castle Harbour. With the three UBP senators preparing to vote against the SDO it would require all three Independents to oppose the move to be blocked. They will not be short of information.

Dr. Hughes, who lives in Hamilton Parish where the planned development will take place, said he had received hundreds of calls and emails — more than for any other decision he could remember.

Ms Dillas-Wright said she had been ‘deluged’ with messages from people on either side of the debate trying to sway her one way or the other.

Protest group BEST, which objects to the development on environmental grounds, and CURB, which has raised concerns on racial grounds, distributed mailing lists of the Senators’ emails and contact numbers urging people to make their concerns heard. Both groups have organized protests outside the House of Assembly on Friday.

Hoteliers have backed the development and insist it is vital for the future of tourism.

BEST’s Stuart Hayward said: “ The Senators have more information than the MPS did and hopefully they will make a more informed decision.”

Ms. Dillas-Wright would not confirm which way she will vote on Friday.

But she said she recognized the importance of the decision and had listened intently to voices on both sides of the argument.

“It is an important debate and one of the most controversial ones we have had for a long time.

“I’ve spent a lot of time and sober reflection considering this. It is an important responsibility and not one I take lightly.

“I don’t recall any other SDO creating this amount of interest and controversy. I’ve been deluged with emails.

Due diligence

“The Senators have done their due diligence. We’ve met with all parties — Mr Trippe, the planners, BEST. It’s not something we take lightly.”

Dr. Hughes accepted that the nature of party politics threw increased focus on the Independent members, who effectively hold the balance of power in this debate.

“That’s the way the Senate works, but we will have to wait and see what happens.”

He said the issue had galvanized the public more than any other in recent memory.

“I’ve had hundreds of emails but my computer hasn’t blown up yet.

“People do care a lot about this issue and it is nice to see that interest, whatever side you are on.”

The powers of the Senate on this issue remain an issue of contention.

With Government bills the upper chamber only has the authority to delay progress for 12 months at which time the House of Assembly can resubmit the same bill.

But in this case Senators believe ‘no means no’.

“Since it is not a bill it wouldn’t go back to the House,” said UBP senator Michael Dunkley.

“It could come back again but it would have to be substantially different. It would have to be in another form.”

Further complicating the issue is the fact that nothing in law currently requires the Government to put SDO’s through the legislative process at all.

Paula Cox’s Government has tabled an amendment to the Planning Act that will ultimately require SDO’s to go through the House and the Senate but it has yet to be officially approved.

Technically the Government still has the option of pushing the SDO through on the say-so of the Minister of Environment.

However insiders say they are unlikely to do so, having attempted to follow the spirit of the new law by going to the House in the first place.

 

Special report: Tucker's Point