All of a sudden, Bermuda is being deluged with proposals for hotel construction. There are far too many hotel projects all at one time. They will further stretch an already ballooned construction industry, overdevelop some of our most pristine areas, and look for staffing from an already drained Bermudian labour pool. Let's look at the biggest of these.

Plans for Coco Reef call for development nine stories tall that will dwarf the original buildings and include making an artificial river. Ritz-Carlton's proposal for Par-la-Ville car park in Hamilton is also supposed to climb to nine stories. The Atlantic development on South Shore in Warwick is slated for nine stories and will include luxury residential condos on land previously reserved for hotels. And now there's the hotel proposed for Southlands that will take out agricultural land, build on 'protected' woodlands, and build concrete buttressed walls on land zoned for coastal 'protection'.

These projects all expect to be granted Special Development Orders (SDO), through which the government allows them to disregard Bermuda's Planning rules and regulations.

This is a sore point. SDOs are now becoming so common their name should be changed to Standard Development Orders. And instead of being used only in extraordinary circumstances, they are becoming a frequent device to circumvent Planning regulations. It's discouraging - we have been fighting for years to prevent developers from loop-holing the orderly planning process. And now our own government is becoming the most prevalent loop-holer. It's outrageous.

The Bermuda government also pledged to "undertake Environmental Impact Assessments before approving major projects," a pledge that has been repeatedly broken.

The government can't even enforce the Planning rules that get broken illegally. Why? Because the Environment Ministry has been shortchanged for funds and staffing. Its existing procedures are being riddled with infractions and controversial deals by the same leaders we elect to uphold the tenets of lawful and orderly society.

The outcome is that we can no longer depend upon the government to protect the environment in general and open space in particular. That is not to belittle the many people throughout the government service who have devoted their lives to enhance Bermuda's special and fragile environment. It is, however, a call to arms. If Bermuda's environment is going to be protected, then the public will have to take a more active role.

For starters, ask questions. Ask your MP, or any MP for that matter, any or all of the following sample questions. Make sure you keep a record of their answers - sooner or later you'll want to compare/ contrast those answers.

n Has the government given up on requiring developers to follow the planning process? And if so, why?

n Should ordinary members of the public expect to be treated the same as the big companies, and given SDOs to bypass planning regulations?

n If not, where's the fairness?

n Why shouldn't the public view this as an open door policy for 'big bucks' developers?

n How does the construction of four huge hotels empower our working class?

n Where are the Bermudians who are going to work on, or in, these new hotels?

n Who is going to benefit from these ventures?

n How do they see this benefiting the community?

n Was the Sustainable Development Initiative a sincere venture?

n If it was sincere, then why is no validity being given to feedback from the community that development should occur on brownfield sites and that greenfield sites be preserved.

n Is there an overall plan for tourism?

n If there is an overall plan, where is it so the public can check these proposals against the plan? And, how can the plan be reviewed?

And be sure to ask: When can we expect Environment Impact Assessments on these projects as the government pledged?