The compulsory acquisition of land on Bay Street for the construction of a new and improved Hyatt Centric Hotel has hit another snag.
Barbados TODAY understands there is disagreement between government and at least one landowner over the value of the real estate and the necessary price for acquisition to occur.
Attorney General, Dale Marshall disclosed that at the center of the disagreement is the land owned by businesswoman, Asha Ms Ram Mirchandani on the spot which currently houses the Liquidation Center.
“The owners have told the Government of Barbados that they have no difficulty acquiring the property, but they want a certain amount of money and the valuations we have don’t support that. So it is a process that we’re going through, but at this point I don’t know if there’s any sense elevating it beyond what it is,” said Marshall.
“Every time the government seeks to acquire property, it exercises its right of eminent domain and an owner would have his right to a view as to whether it is worth X or Y and as far as I am concerned that is the only issue between the Government of Barbados and the owners of the property.”
While Ms Ram refused to comment on the disagreement, she directed Barbados TODAY to her son, Rabi Mirchandani, a director of the family business. He indicated that after contracting a “reputable” real estate company to provide a valuation of the property and providing a copy to the government, the company was yet to receive a response.
During a March 13 sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed that Government was against the previous plan of having the Hyatt built on two spots in Bridgetown. She said it would now be constructed on three lots after Government’s compulsory acquisition of land, which includes the nearby Mirchandani-owned property.
At the time, she expressed hope that “we can reach an amicable agreement on the quantum of price”.
In his response however, Mirchandani said: “The Government of Barbados expressed an interest to purchase our land on Bay Street on which the Liquidation Center operates. We were informed the purpose of purchase is to facilitate the Hyatt project, which we recently became aware, is to increase from 189 rooms and 19 residences to 350 rooms.”
“Conversations led to negotiations where each party was to provide a current market valuation of the land using the land acquisition rules,” said Mirchandani in a statement.
The acquisition process still requires parliamentary approval, after which “it shall be lawful for the Governor General…to declare the land to have been acquired…” according to section 5 of the Land Acquisition Act, Cap. 228.
By that time however, the Mirchandani family is hoping to have the matter settled on good terms.
“We have been operating the business, the Liquidation Center since 1993 and quite a number of employees and customers who have supported us over 25 years all depend on us as we do on them. The cost for relocation of our business was calculated by a reputable real estate company and while we recognize the keen interest of the government to see the Hyatt hotel become a reality, we too would like the opportunity to continue our family business even if it is at an alternate location,” said Rabi.
The project, which was first announced in October 2014 by then Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy under a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration has been fraught with controversy. Ms Ram at the time placed her full support behind the project, indicating in February 2017 that she intended to take full advantage of the development.
The following month, social activist David Comissiong filed an injunction for a judicial review of the permissions granted by then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to Hyatt developer Mark Maloney for construction of the hotel. This was based on a perceived failure by Maloney to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) at the construction site. At the time, he also questioned the impact the proposed 15-storey hotel would have on the area, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Following a change of government, Comissiong, now Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM expressed his willingness to withdraw the legal challenge if Government agreed to his key demands.