Copyright Uncommon Caribbean and more images on http://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2011/10/27/photo-essay-la-belle-creole-post-colonial-ruin-on-st-martin/
~ Building permit not yet issued ~
MARIGOT–First Vice-President Guillaume Arnell disclosed Wednesday Service Urbanisme is waiting on specific plans and architectural drawings of American investor Robert Trown’s hotel project on the former La Belle Creole site to be submitted before the process can go to the next step.
He added President Aline Hanson and himself are both “extremely keen” for the project to have a positive outcome.
Arnell, whose portfolio includes Service Urbanisme and Department of Sustainable Development, said while the Collectivité is more than willing to work with the investor, before the dormant site can finally come to life, details of project drawings must conform to building codes and other rules and regulations.
Trown indicated to this newspaper on August 2, that he might be in a position to disclose details of the hotel chain in “about a couple of weeks.” That prediction now seems premature.
According to Arnell no building permit to date for the project has been passed to him for signature since the government was installed in April 2012, but he did confirm the investor was recently given a signed authorisation “to develop the site” and this first phase of the project was approved.
The building permit is the second step. Any permit issued before may have expired, Arnell suggested.
“Government can’t make any commitment based on photos, sketches, or artist’s impressions,” explained Arnell. “We need to know what they are planning to do…how many units, size of units, measurements, heights, limits, and so on. Up to today we have not seen concrete plans. So we sent them a letter explaining our requirements. Now they are in the process of doing it.”
“We are hoping to receive these documents from the architect soon so we can examine them to see if they fit in with existing zoning or if they have to be modified to accommodate the investment.”
Arnell agreed there had been a sticking point with the proposed height of one building in the project.
“The zoning code stipulates you can’t go above a certain height. Government has to be in coherence with the zoning plan and to take into account the capacity of emergency services to intervene in an emergency. But this does not mean for one moment we are imposing a limitation. We want to see and know the figures on paper. It’s not about whether its six or seven floors, we are simply saying tell us where you want to go and we will tell you what our maximum capacity is to intervene, even if it means getting a fire truck with a longer ladder.”
He pointed out Government still has to be careful of investors dictating what they want and the resulting pressure to oblige. The Collectivité, however, wants to be as accommodating as possible.
“We want investors, we need investors, and we are accepting investors, especially for La Belle Creole because this has been an eyesore for years. We are well aware of the boom it will bring to the economy with the extra hotel rooms, to the construction sector, and the creation of jobs. We must come to agreement on this project.”
Whether approved or refused, building permits go to the Contrôle de Legalité to be inspected by State services for legal conformation, and here it can be refused, even if it was approved by Service Urbanisme, if it is interpreted differently by the State service.
In most cases, Arnell indicated, when building permits are rejected the applicant usually only has to make some modifications to conform to the building code and reapply.
Robert Trown bought the 10-hectare former hotel property in 2004 and the intervening nine years have seen numerous studies, investments, and consultations with hotel chains, into what sort of hospitality project would work on the long-abandoned property.
His five star hotel project for the site will see some 400 jobs created.