Lively information session about Guyeau Estate hotel

Spokesman for the developers Frank Roorda at the public hearing, alongside an artist impression of the first phase of the luxury hotel complex planned for Guyeau Estate.

ST. EUSTATIUS–“Lively and interesting discussions,” was how Deputy Government Commissioner Mervyn Stegers characterized Thursday’s public meeting to give information and discuss phase one of the luxury resort at Guyeau Estate in St. Eustatius.

The estate is situated on the south-eastern coast, and once completed will include a marina for mega yachts and a heliport.

Hotel accommodation will eventually comprise up to 120 high-class rooms. Phase one of the hotel, however, will comprise a more boutique-type 20 rooms.

The green light for changing the Spatial Development Plan has been given by the local Government. Archaeological and nature surveys have already been completed. However, the required procedure includes informing the general public and giving the opportunity for filing objections.

Chaired by Interim Director for Infrastructure and Economy Anthony Reid, the public meeting quickly embraced issues of nature concern and historical heritage.

Director of St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation Stenapa Clarisse Buma insisted that her organization was not against development.

“However, to make the hotel possible, the developer needs to prove that his activities have no negative effects on the landscape and nature,” she stated.

“For that, he should do a terrestrial assessment, which has not been executed so far. Actually, part of the land has been cleared already. The area is known to be home to our native iguanas,” Buma said.

Stenapa President Teresa Leslie explained that the hotel grounds should not become a gated community in so far as the general public is concerned. She also asked for assurances that Stenapa Park Rangers would have full access to the hotel complex once developed.

“When I think recreation, I think of a place to which all have access and can enjoy,” Leslie commented. “Is it right to lock off access to the community? Is this the way we want our island to develop?”

Leslie emphasized that Stenapa was not against development. “But it is important that we develop in a way that takes the conservation of nature into account. What Statia needs is blue and green development,” she said.

Spokesman for the hotel developers Frank Roorda could not provide any assurances but said he would discuss the matter with his senior management board.

St. Eustatius Monuments Foundation Director Walter Hellebrand stressed that his conversations with the developers’ representative had been “very positive” and that he was confident that they would preserve the monumental remains at the property and integrate them into the plans for the resort.

“In fact, they are very enthusiastic about it,” he added. However, he expressed sincere concern and frustration about the bulldozer demolition of the plantation cemetery at the estate.

“Something obviously went wrong there,” Hellebrand noted. “The area has been designated of archaeological value, so no digging is allowed without an archaeological opinion first. However, the bulldozing and sand digging occurred before an archaeological assessment could be done. That is not in accordance with the law or regulations.

And now the tombs are destroyed. There is clearly a real problem with the enforcement of rules in the Spatial Development Plan. Those rules are there for a reason,” Hellebrand concluded.

Stegers said the developers would renovate the badly damaged road that leads from Big Stone to Guyeau Estate. “Once renovated, the local government shall buy back the road for one dollar and then maintain it,” he announced.

Guyeau Estate could eventually become the largest hotel and residential complex on Statia. Its creation is expected to provide a much-needed boost to local employment and the economy of the island. A change to the Spatial Development Plan would, however, be necessary.

A marine assessment has shown an abundance of critically-endangered corals in the shallow waters near the shore of the Estate.

According to Stenapa, these corals and sea life would most likely be affected by the construction of a big hotel and marina. “Once gone, the corals will never come back,” Leslie insisted.

Source: The Daily Herald