Issues highlighted with expansion at Hodges Bay Club

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A request has been made for an enforcement order to be issued to the developers of the Hodges Bay Club. This comes as the Department of Environment (DoE) has identified breaches of the approved scope of work, specifically for the construction of a pool.
OBSERVER media has been investigating the matter for the past week and obtained documents showing that the Department wrote to the Development Control Authority (DCA), highlighting all the breaches identified on May 22 and asking for an immediate halt to the project until the issues are discussed and addressed.
But, up to yesterday, the DCA had not acted on the request from the DoE, and now, residents of the area have put the matter in the hands of an attorney; while, one of the directors of the Club has told OBSERVER media it’s a big misunderstanding.
In a letter dated May 23, the DoE’s chief environment officer, Ato Lewis, wrote to the Authority, stating that the Club is “building within a setback area and [causing] a blockage of the public access to the beach. A site visit was conducted on 22 May, 2018 to assess the situation.”
That visit was done by Rudolph Zachariah and Alexander Desuza.
The letter detailing what their inspection found, continued, “The site inspection determined a number of violations and as a result, the DoE is therefore asking that the DCA issue the appropriate order to have Hodges Bay Club stop those activities identified within the attached report.”
Five issues were outlined as follows: A new pool has recently been constructed outside of the property boundary; a second pool is currently being constructed by the villas which is 10 feet from the shoreline in a 100 ft. setback zone; public beach access has been blocked off; boulders have been placed on the beach and contributing to erosions problems; workers have also been seen using pails to
remove sargassum from the beach and throw[ing] it
on the other side of the groyne.”
The DoE said there are two main environmental risks associated with the aforementioned issues: significant erosion risk is posed due to the boulders and; threat to life and property in any case of erosion on the cliff side due to the failure to adhere to the approved setback.
Efforts to reach Frederick Southwell, the Chief Town and Country Planner, were unsuccessful this week. It should be noted that each time when contacted in recent months, the official has said he has no comment on any matters put to him by OBSERVER media.
Roberta Byron, who is the local office manager for BluPearl, the construction company executing the project, said the company was unaware of the concerns and she directed the reporter to the directors of the Hodges Bay Club, Jeff Wellemeyer and Steven Fine, who also own BluPearl.
Wellemeyer , who communicated via email, told OBSERVER media he issued a letter to Monique Francis-Gordon, the attorney who is now acting on behalf of the residents in the area, and who also resides nearby the development project.
The lawyer is among those concerned about how she would or could be affected.
Wellemeyer’s letter to her, dated May 28, was actually in response to her letter to him this week, which she wrote after reaching out to the Chief Town and Country Planner of the DCA.
She told Southwell, by way of letter, that JSN Development Group Limited is the developer, commonly known as the Hodges Bay Club, and that the issues were raised on-site, on more than one occasion, with the architect/project manager, Sean Keane.
The lawyer said residents have no issue with development, but their concerns ought to be considered because they are very crucial due to the potential impact on their lives and the environment.
Francis-Gordon told OBSERVER media she hopes “good sense will prevail” to avert the damage to the environment and that beach access would be maintained.
She noted that infringing on the public’s right to access to the beach is a “very sensitive” national issue that has the potential of causing “negative backlash” for the business in the foreseeable future “once construction of the pool continues unabated, blocking beach access.”
Investigations revealed that the pool is being constructed on Registration Section: Hodges Bay & Thibou’s Block: 43 2197B:483 and according to aerial shots by an independent surveyor, Jeffrey Abbott, and the DoE, the pool extends beyond the North North-East boundary of parcel 483, by 7 feet. Approximately 7 feet of the pool under construction, is, according to the surveyor, on the foreshore/Crown lands.
This seven-foot trespass, the residents allege, “has blocked the entire public access to Beggars Point Beach which is adjacent to the Hodges Bay Club.”
Wellemeyer on the other hand, said the residents are looking at the incorrect map and that the property is not in breach of the laws.
He also stated in the letter to the lawyer that, “There is absolutely no intent to, in any way, cause disruption to your property, the Hodges Bay neighbourhood or in any way impede access to the beach or any of the Antiguan coastline.”
He assured that, “The last thing I would ever want to do is jeopardise our relationship, status or reputation in the country of Antigua.”
The investor, who is the CEO of Hodges Bay Club, denied complaints that the property is encroaching on Crown land and impeding beach access as well.
He said while it may appear that beach access is being impeded, the reality is that “we [Hodges Bay Club] are installing a stone walkway on the oceanfront side of the pool to allow easy access to the oceanfront around the pool.  For over the four plus years there has been little to no access to the beach where heavy construction and a treacherous coastline hindered access.”
In his letter to the lawyer, he added, “I can assure you that we are in no way attempting to restrict access to the beach or
any of the public areas in questions.  We are in constant communication with Hon. [Charles] Max Fernandez, who is an incredible asset to Hodges Bay and all of Antigua, who works tirelessly for the benefit of all and would never allow us to do anything detrimental to the citizens of Antigua.  As such, I have copied him on this letter and would welcome his feedback or input as appropriate.”
Fernandez is Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism; efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

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