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(PRESS RELEASE) — Recently, much has been published and discussed in the media regarding the cessation of construction work on the Sandals La Source Project at Pigeon Island, Gros Islet, due to legal proceedings instituted by The Landings Resort.
For those who are unaware, the Causeway linking Pigeon Island to the mainland was created in the 1970’s by dredging the Reduit swamp and the reefs joining the mainland to Pigeon Island were filled in to create the Causeway. Pigeon Pointe is therefore all reclaimed land.
At that time, when hotel construction was being undertaken along the Reduit Beach, as well as the then Hyatt Hotel now Sandals Grande, the Saint Lucia Planning Department indicated that buildings should be no higher than the highest coconut tree. This rule has generally been followed with The Landings being constrained to no more than 4 storeys during its construction in 2007.
The Landings is an hotel resort made up of 146 villas constructed and developed in 2007 by Saint Lucian and Canadian Nationals. The hotel presently employs just under 200 full time employees, all of whom are Saint Lucian or Caricom nationals, in well-paying jobs and is an important contributor to Saint Lucia’s economy and tourism product, offering an excellent hotel experience. Unlike with the Sandals All Inclusive product, the guests and owners of The Landings can be frequently found patronizing local restaurants, tours, shops and taxis to name a few.
Late last year The Landings, like most of the Saint Lucian public, became aware, through the media, of an intended development by Sandals at Pigeon Island. As the intended development was said to bound with The Landings property, The Landings sought dialogue with Sandals and requested particular information, including their development plans. No information was forthcoming.
Early this year, The Landings wrote to the DCA through its legal counsel Peter I. Foster, QC and the law firm of FOSTERS, to inquire into the proposed development. Again, no information was provided. Eventually, and only after the development plans had been approved, were The Landings permitted to view the plans, but no copies of the plans, reports or information were allowed. On review of the physical plans at the offices of the DCA, we observed that extremely large structures, 9 to 11 storeys, were approved for development, 25 feet from its boundary. Part of The Landings property was also included in the approved development plans of Sandals. The proposed 9 to 11 storey Sandals buildings would cast shadows over The Landings hotel property and restrict the views of not only Landings residents but many residents in the area who had become accustomed to viewing the iconic Pigeon Pointe and its peaks. The Landings are concerned that they were not consulted during the DCA approval process and no consideration was given to the devastating effect this development would have on their property. The intended development is not in keeping with the style, scope, density and blend of surrounding existing coastal properties in the vicinity of the Pigeon Pointe and Reduit Beach properties.
The effect of this large 10 storey plus development so close to The Landings could be devastating, to our hotel product, our property and our operations, thereby jeopardizing investments and the jobs of nearly 200 individuals. We therefore had no alternative but to file a claim for a review by the Court of the decision of the DCA to approve this development plan without any proper consultation with us or without any consideration of the effect of these buildings on our operations and property.
Whilst Sandals was undertaking its construction works, we found that Sandals had commenced construction on our property. The Landings had no choice but to protest this development and take whatever legal action necessary to protect the Landings Resort and the long term employment of all its Saint Lucian staff, and to ensure proper discussions and negotiations could take place between The Landings and Sandals. We are not averse to a hotel development on our northern boundary and our action was in no way meant to jeopardize or hinder the employment of Saint Lucian construction workers as has been suggested.
It is unfortunate that due process was not followed, whereby the concerns of both sides would have been considered during the planning stages of the Sandals La Source project. This would have alleviated the need for any legal proceedings.
The Landings management and staff harbor no ill will against Sandals or its various developments and The Landings’ only interest is ensuring that fair and frank negotiations proceed to the mutual benefit of both resorts.