Judge revokes building permit for Planet Hollywood resort Sint Maarten

PHILIPSBURG--The judge in the Court of First Instance has revoked the building permit issued by the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI to building company Balaclava NV for the construction of Planet Hollywood St. Maarten Beach Resort.
The permit for the construction of a 14-storey all-inclusive resort with 452 rooms, a casino and a beach club with facilities, was granted by a ministerial decree of April 9, 2019, and signed by then-VROMI Minister Cornelius de Weever on August 8, 2019. Almost nine months later, on April 29, 2020, the Court annulled the permit, as it did not meet the legal requirements.
Steven Johnson lives in the vicinity of the planned resort, projected in the same location as the former Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino and Spa, which was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Johnson filed an objection against the building plans, which was rejected by VROMI on July 10, 2019, after which he filed a case under administrative law.
 This case was heard on February 24, 2020, during which the ministry and Balaclava called on the Court to declare the plaintiff’s objections unfounded.
Johnson lives in the vicinity of the plot alongside Great Bay Beach for which the building permit has been granted. As he is located approximately 100 metres from the premises and because he has a view of the plot, it was not disputed during the legal procedures that he might be directly affected by the construction of the hotel, if only considering the planned height of the building, with a surface area of approximately 8,575 square metres.
Considering all this, the judge concluded that in granting the permit Johnson was harmed in his interests as a homeowner or resident.
The requirements for the construction of new properties are laid down in the Building and Housing Ordinance and include a construction drawing to scale.
The ordinance stipulates that an application for a building permit should be denied in case the application is incomplete or when it does not meet the requirements or conditions for a building plan.
According to VROMI, the contested permit was issued conditionally. As soon as these conditions are met, a separate decision will be made in which permission will be granted to start construction of the hotel.
However, the Court found that the conditional building permit did not meet the legal requirements, as there were “improper conditions” attached to it.
It was also not proven that VROMI had verified the technical specifications of the construction project and scale drawings of the building plans were not available.
The ministry’s statement that drawings could be obtained by an appeal to the Public Disclosure Act (“Wet Openbaarheid van Bestuur”) were dismissed by the judge as being “incomprehensible.”
The Court did not find any evidence that the contested permit was a so-called first-phase permit. The judge also said that it did not emerge from the issued permit that it would be possible to find legal recourse about information that still needed to be submitted on the basis of the conditions as laid down in the permit.
As the complainant was declared successful in his appeal, VROMI and Balaclava were ordered to pay Johnson’s legal fees to the tune of NAf. 150.
Johnson said he is considering filing another injunction to revoke all the permits for the construction of Planet Hollywood Resort.
“They are so dead wrong, it’s scary,” he said about his legal opponents. “The lawyers say the decision of the Court of First Instance stops the project for now, but I’m not so sure, hence the injunction.”
Construction of the resort was expected to take some 18 months to be completed. The property is in the hands of the Canada-based Sunwing Travel Group. The developer, when announcing the project in September 2018, said it estimates that when the resort opens it will employ close to 1,000 people.
The Daily Herald

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