By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — According to a press release by The Landings Resort and Spa in Saint Lucia in relation to an ongoing legal dispute with Sandals Resorts International (SRI) that has resulted in work on an adjacent Sandals project being halted, both SRI and the Saint Lucia government refused to provide The Landings with plans and other information in advance of the proposed development.
At the same time, the owner of SRI, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, is on record in relation to an equally if not more controversial Sandals project in Tobago claiming total transparency.
“I don’t operate on anything else than transparent,” Stewart told reporters in Trinidad and Tobago at a recent press conference.
In contrast, The Landings said it sought a dialogue with Sandals and requested particular information, including its development plans for the Sandals La Source project at Pigeon Island, Gros Islet, in Saint Lucia, but no information was forthcoming.
The Landings also wrote to the Development Control Authority (DCA) in Saint Lucia to inquire into the proposed Sandals development. Again, no information was provided, The Landings said.
As a result, The Landings said it 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 or without any consideration of the effect of these buildings on its operations and property.
Furthermore, whilst Sandals was undertaking its construction works, it was discovered that Sandals had commenced construction on The Landings 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,” the resort said.
When the development plans were belatedly made available for inspection, it was also discovered that the DCA had approved extremely large, 9- to 11- storey structures, which were not only just 25 feet from The Landings’ boundary but contrary to an earlier Saint Lucia Planning Department ruling that buildings in the area should be no higher than the highest coconut tree.
“This rule has generally been followed, with The Landings being constrained to no more than four storeys during its construction in 2007,” the resort pointed out.
Part of The Landings property was also included in the approved development plans of Sandals.
The Landings is a hotel resort made up of 146 villas constructed and developed in 2007 and 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 the Sandals “all inclusive” product, frequently characterised by the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, as “all exclusive” of benefits to local stakeholders, the guests and owners of The Landings can be frequently found patronizing local restaurants, tours, shops, taxis and other services.
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.
However, The Landings was not consulted during the DCA approval process and no consideration was given to the devastating effect this development would have on its 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 resort said.
“The effect of this large ten-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,” The Landings said.
“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 resort pointed out.