Developer Mark Maloney has taken exception to suggestions that an attempt to engage the public on the controversial multi-million dollar Hyatt Centric Hotel project at Bay Street, The City was nothing more than a public relations (PR) stunt.
“This is not a PR stunt, it is a PR requirement of what we are doing and nothing that we are doing is going to be branded as a stunt or circumventing of processes.
“We have done everything that we have been required to do and we will pass on all questions to do with those requirements of us to the regulatory agencies who are responsible for giving permission for these types of projects,” he told reporters on the sidelines of Saturday’s “public interactive discussion” at the proposed site.
Ahead of the session, attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong had described the event as “a callous slap in the face” of all Barbadians and “a monumental insult to our intelligence”.
“Indeed, these people [the developers] are so contemptuous of us that they are bold-facedly holding a public town hall meeting or as they term it, ‘a public interactive discussion’, not during the period of the processing of the application; not prior to the [Prime Minister, who is the minister responsible for Town Planning] making a decision on the application, but some four months after the minister has made his decision to grant permission to construct the controversial hotel,” Comissiong said in a press release last Friday.
The social activist, who is currently challenging the project in the law courts on 12 grounds, including that the requisite environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not carried out, had also accused the meeting organizers of cherry picking participants.
However, the developers, who have also been heavily criticized for not staging any town hall meetings with the public, have sought to assure that there was no sinister motivation behind Saturday’s event and that they were prepared to follow the required procedure.
Maloney further assured that contrary to Comissiong’s suggestion, his company’s efforts to reach out the public were by no means an afterthought but was contemplated in the planning process months ago.
“The interactive session was part of our overall plan for the project, it is not a town hall meeting and it was never our intention to have this as a replacement for a town hall meeting. This interactive session is something we are going to do on an ongoing basis to invite the people from the surrounding areas so that we could share with them what we are doing and to hear from them how they feel,” he said.
However, it is going take more than a one-off meet and greet before all concerns surrounding the construction of the multi-million dollar tourism development are allayed, Member of Parliament for The City Colonel Jeffrey Bostic has declared.
With questions surrounding the possible impact on The City’s UNESCO heritage status, infrastructure and coast, yet to be answered, Bostic, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) representative, was among the sparse attendees at last weekend’s session hosted by the project developer.
He told Barbados TODAY that having heard the concerns of constituents, he was not ready to give the US$100 million coastal development his full blessing.
“Coming here this morning I was able to get some answers to some of the concerns that I had, there are some others that I still have to pursue and I am not quite sure where the project is going at this point in time and I would continue to pursue those.
“All of my concerns have not been fully addressed but some have. I have not had the opportunity to ask about a number of things but I certainly plan to do so in the coming days, but at least this a step in right direction,” Bostic said.
He revealed the issue of sewage treatment and the possible impact on the already overworked Bridgetown sewage plant were discussed at length with the developers, adding that thus far he was happy with what he had heard on the matter.
“We were told this morning that the hotel is going to have its own sewage treatment system, which would be underground, so that is good to hear. The traffic plan was also an area of concern as there would be an impact in this area as talk of redirection of traffic had arisen. I was given assurances that the road was going to be widened and that there would be no redirection of traffic through the Wellington Street area as we were hearing before,” he added.
Like Comissiong, Bostic chided the developers for not fulfilling the Town & Country Planning requirement of holding town hall meetings, and noted that outreach effort did not meet this threshold, although the meeting was a step in the right direction.
While Bostic would not comment on Comissiong’s other grounds before the court, including the failure of Government to have public consultations and the EIA, he was adamant people had a right to know about the major changes in their environment.
“I think this is one of the entire components that was sadly lacking that is providing the information for the general public and more so, for the residents of the areas that immediately surround this project site. I say that because in the absence of the town hall meeting which is normally requirement for these things and that has not happened, myself and a lot of the residents were not sure about what is actually going to happen,” the Opposition legislator said, while lamenting the fact that hardly any of the directly impacted residents was on hand to ventilate their concerns.