Social activist David Comissiong is warning that Hyatt developer Mark Maloney’s Vision Development Inc could be wasting precious time and money if it proceeds with work on the controversial project before the High Court issues a ruling on the matter.
The US$100 million project is caught up in a legal battle between Comissiong on one side, and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as the Minister responsible for Town & Country Planning, and Maloney, on the other side.
High Court Judge Sonia Richards in mid-August reserved judgment after hearing arguments from both sides on Comissiong’s suitability to challenge Stuart’s decision to grant planning permission for the 15-storey Hyatt Centric resort on Bay Street, The City.
However, Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy told the Democratic Labour Party’s luncheon lecture last Friday that the stalled project would get under way soon.
While Sealy gave no further details, Comissiong warned that any work on the property before the judge announces her decision could turn out to be costly for the developer.
“It’s a matter for Mr Maloney and his company. If they want to take the risk of starting the construction process and spending money in carrying out the beginnings of a construction process and then it turns out a few weeks down the road that the court makes a ruling that the permission given was wrongfully given and needs to be withdrawn, it means that Mr Maloney and his company would have wasted the resources used to do so,” Comissiong said.
The social activist wants a judicial review of the permission granted to Maloney to build the multi-million dollar beachfront resort, arguing there ought to have been an environmental impact assessment; that Stuart had relied on an outdated Physical Development Plan, even though Section 11(1) of the Town & Country Planning Act stipulates that the plan, which is now 14 years old, must be updated every five years; and that the maximum height allowed for beachfront hotels was five storeys, compared to seven storeys for non-beachfront tourist accommodation.
The Prime Minister is fighting back, contending that the activist did not have either a financial or a legal leg on which to stand in the matter.
Comissiong told Barbados TODAY at present there was no injunction against the project, therefore he could not stop Maloney from proceeding.
“From a strictly legal point of view, there is no injunction, so there is nothing to stop them. They would be doing so at their own risk. We are waiting. A lot of law and analysis of the law was put before her [Richards]. In addition to that case though, I know she generally has a very busy schedule as a judge. So we are waiting and when she is ready to deliver her decision, she will do that,” he said.
However, Comissiong called on Government and Maloney to respect the judicial system and allow the judge the opportunity to make a ruling.
“I would hope that out of a sense of respect for the judicial system of Barbados, out of respect for the sense that this matter is now actively before a judge who is considering all that was said and is going through the decision-making process, I would like to think that they would respect that and recognize that it would not be the most seemly thing to proceed with construction in the prevailing circumstances,” Comissiong stressed.