Despite the sole objection by One Bermuda Alliance MP Trevor Moniz, the Bill clearing the way to transform the Grand Atlantic apartment block units into condominium hotel units was passed on Friday.
The Bermuda Housing Amendment Act 2018 was introduced and passed in a single Parliamentary sitting.
Opposition MPs claimed the quick passage came without the benefit of public scrutiny and claimed that was “unfair’.
Passage through the Senate will also see the Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC) benefit from duty relief during the transformation.
At the end of it all, Colonel Burch successfully piloted the Bermuda Housing Amendment Act 2018, to convert Grand Atlantic to condominium hotel units.
And just like that, the Bill, put through in one day, was approved by Deputy Speaker Derrick Burgess, to be reported to the House as printed around 6:30pm on Friday.
But not before Progressive Labour Party (PLP) castigated Mr Moniz for his sole objection.
PLP MP Zane DeSilva countered the Shadow Attorney General and said the former One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) government were given the option to be presented with “a demo on this deal”.
“They were offered to view and participate in a presentation on this deal,” said Mr DeSilva.
At that point, Mr Moniz rose to his feet to raise a Point of Order, saying: “That’s not true”.
It was at that point that the Minister piloting the Bill, Colonel Burch rose to his feet on a Point of Clarification, saying: “I know you’re not going to tell me it didn’t happen.”
Addressing the Speaker he said: “The Opposition was offered technical officers to explain the full deal and they said no they were not going to agree to it.”
Mr DeSilva then asked: “So what’s the OBA’s end game with regards to this objection today?
“Do they want Bermuda to be successful and encourage foreign exchange or they do not?”
Mr Moniz countered with another question and asked: “How long is this deal going to be for?”
Mr DeSilva tersely replied: “Nowhere as long as the 30 years for the airport!”
He then proceeded to blast the former Government’s track record when they lost the last General Election.
Just prior to their landslide defeat at the polls, Mr DeSilva charged that Bermuda’s public purse was “$165 million in default before the last election”.
The PLP MP then asked the former Attorney General “where was he” and suggested maybe he was too “busy with Lahey and personal agendas”.
“That’s why the stuff coming out of his mouth makes no sense! In fact, if I was a member of the OBA I would be embarrassed!
“I want to thank Col Burch for bringing this legislation and his team,” said Mr DeSilva.
“I know these things are not easy.
This is a welcome for the Premier, who reminded us on where we are. We’re doing more with less, to use the phrase of a former premier.
“I hope that we’ve heard the one and only objection on this legislation.”
PLP MP Chris Famous followed to remind MPs that it wasn’t too long ago that the narrative perpetuated was that the Grand Atlantic is going “to fall in the water”.
Post 2012, he asked if he could read something out of the Bermuda Sun quoting OBA MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, who said: “It will add jobs thru condo hotel with an new en suite product.”
Mr Famous asked: “How could something that could fall in the water, how could it now be this eutopia?”
He went to to say that he was “contacted by the chief architect who was going do the transition”.
“He brought all the plans, with elevators. He showed me the geological plans – all that.
“I asked him why would the OBA say it’s going fall off the cliff and he said you can’t listen to them – it was all a political act.”
PLP MP Kim Swan took issue with Mr Moniz’s use of the term “kicking the can down the road”.
The PLP backbencher said: “A government addressing an issue in its first year could not be accused of ‘kicking the can down the road’.
“I would conclude that the Minister of Works bringing this here is looking to take care of this matter once and for all,” he said.
“OBA MP Craig Cannonier, a former Minister of Public Works, rose to put an end to the line the debate was taking.
“It was a shock that in one day this legislation is before us today,” he said.
“It was concerning to hear about it just yesterday (Thursday, August 9), but the project just needs to get done!
“We’re going back and forth with things that don’t matter! Let’s end this debate the way that it’s going.
“At the end of the day I want to hear let’s get it done!
At the end of the day, he said: “Let’s get this project going — because it means jobs for people.”
Opposition Leader Jeanne Atherden said her only concern at the end of the day, was: “Sometimes haste makes waste and I hope we don’t have any waste created by our haste.”
Mr Moniz also noted that the BHC was established to provide low-cost housing. Their mandate was not “running a hotel”, which was a “fundamental change in the raison d’être of the corporation”.
“We think that this is something that the public should know about.
“We think it would be quite unfair for a Bill of this importance to not have the opportunity to go through the appropriate process.”
Colonel Burch responded, saying the development will be re-purposed to ensure that the Government and people of Bermuda could pay off the debt held by this property.
Moving forward, he said, the plan is for a partnership to be formed with successful bidders to convert the Grand Atlantic site into a “mid-market boutique hotel” with leisure facilities.
“Essentially this Bill will provide the legal means for the BHC to consummate that arrangement,” he said.
The Bill also exempts the BHC from stamp duty and land tax for the conversion of the development.
Minister Tourism and Economic Development, Jamahl Simmons said this was “just the beginning because there are other exciting projects that are in the pipeline”.
The 78 apartments in the nine buildings will be converted into 71 units for sale, with additional kitchenette and bathroom facilities to provide 111 rents.
Outdoor amenities include two pools, one will be an infinity style, with a funicular lift to be installed for transport down to the beach below.
Seven units will be turned into communal facilities to include a reception area, a restaurant, a spa and gym.
At the end of it all, Colonel Burch successfully piloted the Bermuda Housing Amendment Act 2018 through the Lower House.
And just like that, the Bill, put through in one day, was approved by Deputy Speaker Derrick Burgess, to enable the corporation to apply the Tourism Investment Act 2017 and be reported to the House as printed.
By 6:30pm on Friday, August 10, 2018, it was a done deal in the House of Assembly.
Next stop – on to the Senate.