PLANNING DEPARTMENT SAYS 28 STORE HOTEL WOULD BE EXCESSIVE IN TURKS

published in SUN TCI
The Turks and Caicos Islands Planning Department has advised the Interim Government that a move from a maximum height of seven (7) storeys to twenty-eight (28) storeys as being proposed by Hugh McLean Skyline hotel project, would be excessive and would have enormous impacts on the island of Providenciales and on the entire country.

According to the Department, increases in height and density of buildings should be gradual in order to ensure compatibility with the existing environment and infrastructure.

In light of this, the Planning Department suggests a reasonable and gradual increase. For example, from seven storeys’ to ten storeys. Regarding the proposed 28-storey hotel, the department also notes the lack of specific information of the development including (but not limited) to the specific parcels of land – the location, size, zoning in question, the desirability of producing an updated National Physical Development Plan before a decision and the need for formal submission of an outline planning application.

This was all contained in the public consultation report which was released by the Interim Government.

The Skyline Proposal outlines a mixed use development project that proposes 3 high rise buildings. The first being a 28 storey tower that will house a 200 room hotel and 96 condo units on the top floors. The second and third phases will each consist of a 20 storey condominium tower with 156 units each. This will give a total of 512 rooms and the largest conference space on the islands.

The report concluded that there is a widely accepted need for diversification of the tourism product in the Turks and Caicos Islands and particularly on Providenciales. The consultation notes that the investment in the proposed mixed use development has considerable potential to create jobs and additional economic activity for the islands. It also recognizes the acute challenges of competing land users and the scarcity of prime coastal lands. Thus an increase in the height of buildings and density, particularly tourism related development is arguably inevitable.

In February 2012 Mr. Hugh McLean met with Government officials to discuss a development project for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Mr. Mclean submitted an outline proposal for a Mixed Used Development that includes an EP Hotel, Conference Centre, Retail and Professional Offices.

The proposal outlines expanding and diversifying the current tourism product offering on TCI and brings the potential of increased tourism development and conference facilities, as well as providing a number of jobs.

The Government recognized that the proposed development was complex and exceeds the current building height and density requirements, as set out in the TCI development manual. The project’s high rise concept is in excess of density restrictions as referenced in the planning development manual. Due to the unusual and controversial nature of the project, and its potential benefits, the Governor decided to consult the public and all appropriate stakeholders to inform in decision making.

The developer presented the proposal to Advisory Council, both political parties and the public at large. The pubic consultation on 18th July was well attended by member of the community. One hundred and ninety persons signed in during the public consultation with an estimated four hundred people in attendance.
In total over seven hundred written submissions were received on the Skyline proposal.

Some 610 submissions were collected by the developer, in favour of the mixed use high rise concept of the resort. There were 195 email submissions to the Investment Unit and Governor’s Office mainly in objection to the project.

The largest majority of feedback collected by the developer illustrated 3 options to: keep project as proposed, decision with the planning board and to reduce the height of the proposed project to 21 storeys.

In over 75% of these submissions all 3 boxes were ticked, with 589 persons agreeing to the project and the decision taken by the planning board.

Many respondents felt that they were unable to make an informed decision based on the available information supporting it. There was also a broad view that no decision should be made without supporting technical information from an environmental impact study and planning assessment were made and submitted to the public.

Another prevalent theme in the submissions was concern about the environmental impact of the project and whether it was in the right location. Government departments and the public at large noted a wish to access or comment on the project on the basis of a building outline and the block and parcel numbers.

Considerable concerns were raised on the impact a “high rise” would have on the low density tourism model currently in practice, which is paired to the “Beautiful by nature” motto of the tourism product. It was argued that the reputation and “brand” of TCI would be undermined by the proposal.

The question of how many jobs would in practice be obtained by islanders and permanent residents was a particular theme. It was noted that the mixed use project provided a secondary platform for commerce and business linkages.

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