Buccament land ownership issues resolved – Minister
The issues of ownership of land at Buccament have been resolved, allowing for hotel development in the area to move forward seamlessly.
Last week, two men who own lands at Buccament told SEARCHLIGHT that the offer of EC$10 per square foot being made by the Government for their land was insufficient.
However, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that some of the farmers have agreed to sell their land outright, while others have decided that they want different parcels of land in exchange and other considerations.
The finance minister said that farmers who have sold their land outright have agreed to accept $12 a square foot, which he said is far in excess of the value of agricultural land in the area. He said land of the sizes being dealt with would usually be valued per acre and not by the square foot.
“But there were considerations other than market value that justified an increase in price in the interest of fairness,” the minister said.
He disclosed that some farmers will get parcels of land in exchange, some will have their houses rebuilt and receive money for crops, tilling and tractor services. Some of the farmers have also asked for time to allow them to reap their crops.
The July 21, 2020 publication of the Government Gazette states that 46.82 acres of land at Buccament were acquired from Harlequin Property (SVG) Limited (In Bankruptcy), Harlequin Properties Caribbean Limited, Simeon Roberts, Granville Slater, Noel Browne, Gregory Edwards and Bernard Punnett.
The Minister said although the land was acquired, that was only done after consensus was reached with the farmers. He said they should be paid their money as soon as within 10 days time.
“Acquiring helps to clear up title issues and allows us to remove the obligation for the sellers to pay stamp duty and other taxes and fees. So we agreed to a solution, acquired, and now will honour the terms that we agreed pre-acquisition,” said Gonsalves.
On Wednesday, government signed a contract that will see the building of a Beaches branded resort by the Sandals and Beaches Resorts Inc on 40 acres of land at the Buccament Bay location.
The Minister said the project will result in foreign direct investment of US$100 million.
In 2016, the Buccama Bay Resort closed after David ‘Dave’ Ames, the founder of Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, parent company of Buccament Bay Resort Ltd and Harlequin Property SVG Ltd, fled the country after money issues forced the closure of the resort.
On Saturday, December 17, 2016, the East Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) appointed KPMG as Interim Receiver to protect the assets of Harlequin Properties Ltd. (HPL), the developers of the resort.
During the ceremony on Wednesday to mark the signing of the agreement with the Sandals group, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that KPMG, the Government and all the entities involved in the Buccament Bay resort came to an agreement that allows the Sandals deal to move forward.
The Prime Minister said he would like to thank one of the landowners, Simeon “Big Ras” Roberts who owns two and a half acres, for his cooperation.
According to Gonsalves, the Government now owns all 40 acres and they are ready to transfer the property to Sandals in keeping with the terms and conditions they have discussed.
“There are no title issues to create difficulties and I want to make it clear,” the Prime Minister said while noting he regrets that the original owners of the property were unable for one reason or the other to conclude their mission.
He said however that the failure of the original owners has provided an even better opportunity for the country as we will now have a hotel owned and controlled by Caribbean people.