FRIDAY, JANUARY 18: The development at Grand Atlantic and the Park Hyatt Condominiums/Hotel plan show that good intentions (low to medium-cost housing and a hotel for St George’s) are insufficient. 

Established procedures that include an EIA should be adhered to. 

Comprehensive planning that draws on the expertise of officials and other qualified persons must be undertaken. 

Allowances need to be made for public examination, comment and objection. Together, these can lead to the growth of healthy, sustainable communities.

Since 1992, an assertive plan for higher density development and more dispersed commercial development has been considered for Bermuda.

The current Bermuda Plan 2008 has followed this trend, enabling a hierarchy of mixed-use zones at Southside and Dockyard and eight neighbourhood commercial centres across the island. 

The Plan allows for greater flexibility in residential land uses, higher buildings, increased density and reduced lot sizes. 

The rationale for its policies is that compact mixed-use ‘towns’ and centres will protect our natural resources, relieve pressure to develop greenfield sites, curb urban sprawl, preserve residential amenity and ease traffic congestion by reducing our dependency on the private car.

While BEST strongly objected in the Bermuda Plan Tribunal process to the intensification of development these policies allow, it supported, and continues to support, the rationale behind these policies. 

However, we believe that these aggressive allowances must be tied into a comprehensive architectural, transportation and neighbourhood-integration plan for each centre. 

Without such a plan, the positive impact envisaged for neighbouring areas and the island as a whole cannot be guaranteed, and the economic and social viability of the centres themselves may not be achieved. 

Successful planned communities in the US, Canada and Europe clearly demonstrate that it is possible to curb sprawl while ensuring a high quality of life for residents and measurably improving environmental quality. 

These self-contained, pedestrian-oriented ‘smart’ towns and villages incorporate a strong and diverse commercial centre, a design scale that does not dominate over the pedestrian, connectivity to the public transport system, and a contiguous green network of gardens, sidewalks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and parks. They support the unique character of the neighbouring residential communities and integrate well into the natural landscape.

BEST believes we must incorporate lessons learned from planning models for community sustainability and design our existing mixed-use and neighbourhood commercial centres to not only nurture economic opportunity but to also preserve and enhance the social, cultural and environmental assets of our neighbourhoods. 

BEST believes that well-planned mixed-use and neighbourhood centres will have a greater likelihood of achieving the vitality and viability envisioned for commercial businesses to succeed. 

BEST would encourage an integrated plan for each of our mixed-use and neighbourhood commercial centres that supports community sustainability and is based on the principles of self-sustainable, complete and functional communities. n

This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.

In the next issue: Capital Projects – creating future benefits or exacerbating economic decline?