The Concretization of Jamaica Continues: Plans for the “New Negril” (A New Miami South Beach?)


It seems that the “concretization” of our coastline is to continue, and all in the name of tourism dollars. Yes, I know that’s not a real word, but it sprang to mind! I have been somewhat out of the loop for a while, but am trying to catch up. Below I am copying and pasting three articles from Hospitality Jamaica, edited by a very good journalist in the western region, Janet Silvera. See links to the articles below…

To me, the name is neither here nor there. What perturbs me is “the establishment of high-rise hotels of unlimited heights within that space” between Hanover and Westmoreland, to the north of the tourist resort of Negril. Is this really the “model” we want to pursue? Another Cancun?

Miami’s South Beach: Is this the tourism model we want to pursue? (Photo ULora/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

There is even an element of “disaster capitalism” here – as Negril Chamber of Commerce member Daniel Grizzle observes, below. Deliberately allow the town of Negril to get run down (it is shabby and neglected), sell it off cheap and build shiny new developments nearby. This seriously heightens inequality, degrades communities and deprives long-time Negril residents and investors of a better quality of life and the whole area of its intrinsic charm.

I am puzzled as to whether consultations with the residents and many (mostly tourism-related) businesses took place, and if so when (before the Cabinet decision?)

I am also wondering how this will affect the Negril Morass – the Royal Palm Reserve – (which gets a cursory mention) and wetlands? Late last year, the “Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States” (IWEco) – a mouthful! – project to protect and improve conditions in the peat Morass was launched with J$60.2 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and some from other partners. Very good. Minister Daryl Vaz said all the right things at the launch and we appreciate all these climate change funds. Nevertheless…

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon Daryl Vaz, giving the keynote address at the launch of the Integrated Water, Land and Ecosystems (IWEco) project at Couples Swept Away in Negril on November 29. PHOTO: NICKIETA STERLING/JIS

Is NEPA going to rubber stamp (sorry, approve!) its own plan for the “New Negril” or whatever it is eventually called?

This is a major disrespect to the people of Negril. Not only that, but we need full transparency. It is unfair to simply present a “Master Plan.” People come first ( a reminder to current AND former administrations, by the way, and something that they all need to be reminded of regularly). And “people” cannot be divorced from the unique and special environment of Negril (already quite degraded) in which they live.

Is this the much-touted “sustainable tourism”? Someone, please explain.

NEPA OUTLINES CABINET’S “NEW NEGRIL” AGENDA

Senior Physical Planner at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Isau Bailey was at pains to convince Negril stakeholders that the name ‘New Negril’ was not cast in stone during a meeting at the Negril Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday.

Bailey, who came under heavy criticism, said that the name was only being brought up because of stipulations in the Cabinet document for the New Negril Master Plan.

Addressing stakeholders in the resort town, Bailey admitted that ‘the name’ had always come up as an issue, and so his team would be making notes and seeking to make representation to the requisite min­istry regarding the issues so that they could be rectified but noted that the name would continue to cause some amount of controversy.

“The Cabinet has mandated the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and NEPA to make the creation of a new development area called ‘New Negril’, a priority with unlimited building heights, and authorized the preparation of a master plan for the area,” Bailey said.

“The name New Negril is what we are using because that was what was in the Cabinet sub­mission. I don’t think it is the intention that the place will be called ‘New Negril”. I am not sure, but it is something that we are hoping to have consultations with stakeholders on and with the Cabinet in this regard. But I know the name has been causing a tiff, but I think it has served its purpose in terms of grabbing everybody’s attention and bringing persons to the fore,” Bailey said.

The planner said that the project would be undertaken by NEPA in collaboration with the Negril Green Island Planning Authority as well as the Hanover and Westmoreland Municipal Corporations.

Sand waiting to be removed from Negril Beach in January, 2016. Remember? Not so long ago. Poor Negril! (Photo: Negril Chamber of Commerce)

UNLIMITED HEIGHTS

According to Bailey, the New Negril boundary will begin at the Hanover-Westmoreland border and extend eastwards to the community of Esher in Hanover. It will allow for the establishment of high-rise hotels of unlimited heights within that space.

Bailey told the meeting that the master plan is a conceptual layout that will guide future growth within the area, which has a popula­tion of just under 11,000. It is to feature, among other things, land use and sector plans, solid-waste management, a city-management plan, a feasibility plan, an updated area profile analysis, a long-term physical-development plan; social-cultural development plans, as well as economic and financial development plans in accordance with Cabinet directives.

He said that the Cabinet had opted to pursue this area of Hanover as there were fewer constraints, more greenfield sites, and more land that would accommodate high-rise buildings, similar to resort models in countries north of Jamaica.

“When the Cabinet mandated us to prepare a master plan, I know they would have been looking at some resort models. A couple that comes to mind was Miami, South Beach, and Nassau, Bahamas. So we are looking at those resort models and trying to position the country in attracting those tourists that would otherwise have been going to those destinations, and I think they, in their thinking, were probably thinking that Negril would be the best place to do such a venture,” he explained.

“They were looking at some of the constraints that were existing in Negril. A portion of the Old Negril is covered by the Great Morass and it backs on to the hills by West End. They were thinking that this area is too constrained by these natural features to have any significant development in terms of what they are proposing to do to tap into the tourist markets persons who would be going to destinations such as Nassau, Bahamas, South Beach etc,” he said.

The Negril Morass and Royal Palm Reserve.

NEGRILIERS VIEW “NEW NEGRIL” MASTER PLAN WITH HIGH SUSPICION

SOME STAKEHOLDERS in Negril are viewing the New Negril Master Plan, the preparation of which is being undertaken by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), with high suspicion.

The stakeholders were vociferous in voicing their concerns during a presentation by the senior physical planner at NEPA, Isau Bailey, at a meeting of the Negril Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday in that resort town.

According to Bailey, the New Negril boundary will begin at the Hanover/Westmoreland border and extend more than 30 kilometres along the entire coastline, to the community of Esher in Hanover, and will allow for the establishment of high-rise hotels of unlimited heights within that space.

But one returning resident who was present at the meet­ing, expressed concern that the development plan emerged virtually ‘out of the blue’. He said there appears to be undue haste in getting the ‘master plan’ completed. He also took issue with the continued use of the name ‘New Negril’ in reference to the proposed plan.

He sees this as a ploy,y by what he described as ‘forces’, to circum­vent the long-overdue restoration of the resort town by ‘writing off the original Negril’ because the State is not committed to making the necessary expenditure and have resorted to exploiting Hanover’s largely pristine, virgin coastline, which will allow the original town to “die a slow death”.

“What is driving the ministry and the Cabinet to do this now? Who are the interests behind this new plan?’ he questioned. “My perception of all this is that there is a body of people trying to not repair the Seven Mile Beach, but want to exploit another section and piggyback off the name Negril.

“And when the town (centre) of Negril is not totally considered as a core part of the discussion, it sends a very strong message. I am not saying you are intellectually dishonest, but the thinking is intellectually dishonest and if we are going to level on the table, there are more forces driving these things than we as locals are being exposed to…. It is not a matter we should take lightly,” the returning resident told the NEPA representatives.

He said that with all the resources being poured into the New Negril plans, it “could run old Negril to the ground through top-end marketing.

“I invested in Little Bay Country Club and would not want to see the investment run down and they buy us out for little and nothing. These people want to come and put high-density resorts and it’s all about revenue generation. And unlike we who see Negril intimately as a place our foreparents preserved [to allow for] four storeys, people will come and abuse our environment for the sake of the capital,” he contended.

“They have no nexus; they have no relationship; they have no attachment. They just see us as a country that they can come exploit. We have a white beach, so they see us as a money machine,” he argued.

Hotelier and immediate past president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Grizzle, again bemoaned the present and previous political administration’s reticence in overhauling the Negril town center. He said that NEPA and the prime minister will be writ­ten to, to express the organization’s concerns regarding the use of the name Negril and recommenda­tions for physical and intelligent development of the area.

“I think, which I have been saying all the while, they don’t mind we fall into slum, disrepair, so some big company can come in and say: ‘Oh, they are all strug­gling. I will buy all of you out for little or nothing.’ It is something they have done in other developed countries; they ‘slummify’ an area and then the developers pick it up cheaply,” he said.

“And, I think it’s not an accident, I think it is a planned thing to let the town center be a slum. We lack water; we lack proper policing; we lack everything. So to devalue our property so they can buy it cheaply. You have got to have the feeling that our Government is part of the plan. And this has nothing to do with this Government or the other. Both governments have treated us with the same disregard and don’t think of us as a potential big money earner or an area where we are going to be prosperous,” he said.

Also voicing his objection to the New Negril agenda was hotel­ier Dalton Hill, who called for a letter of objection to be sent to the relevant government ministers behind the New Negril concept, demanding the rehabilitation and establishment of a proper town center as well as aborting the use of the name ‘New Negril”.

“I am a born and grow Negril person. A no now we deh hold on pon dis name; and now they want to take it away from us. We have no post office; we have no school. We have nothing. Of the millions that are coming out of this town; nothing we no have. With all of what’s happening here, the people of Negril have been left out totally,” he said.

A horse does its business on the beautiful Negril beach in 2015. How Negril has suffered in recent years! (Photo: Mary Veira)

KEEP BUILDING-HEIGHT LAW OR DON’T USE THE WORD “NEW NEGRIL,” RESORT STAKEHOLDERS DECLARE

Operator of Couples Resorts Lee Issa says that he is of the view that whatever building ordinance currently exists within the resort town of Negril, it ought to apply to the proposed New Negril.

“If you are going to use the Negril name, I think you are going to have to respect the origins of Negril and how it should be built – low density, low rise. If the new ordinance is four storeys for the whole Negril, it should be four storeys for the New Negril. So if you are going to use the Negril name, we don’t want people saying, ‘Oh, you look like Cancun. How they can call this Negril’?” Issa told officials of the National Environment and Planning Agency last Tuesday during a meeting of the Negril Chamber of Commerce.

“So I think they need to be con­sistent. And the image of Negril, which has been made so popular over the years, is maintained and continues to flourish. If they are going to go 10, 12 storeys on the Hanover side, then they cannot call it Negril. They should call it some­thing else,” Issa added, in making his comments following an address by NEPA’s senior physical planner, Isau Bailey at the meeting.

The NEPA official was also counteracted by Issa when he said that there was insufficient land space within the proposed New Negril area, in Hanover, and this would prevent hoteliers from “spreading out laterally.”

“That is not true,” Issa said. “The two properties that were sold recently in the Green Island area are quite large. So whoever the developer is, he could be prudent and smart and do a spread-out type of development than high rise because people are leaving big cities. They don’t want to come to another resort, where you have high rises.

“My advice is if they want to invest their money wisely, do it, spread out. Don’t go higher than four storeys and it will be much more feasible than high-rise buildings. We don’t have any short­age of land in Hanover. I know that much,” the hotelier added.

Former Chairman of the Negril Green Island Local Planning Authority Cliff Reynolds, who was in attendance at the meeting, also objected to the plans to discon­tinue using the same four-storey height limit when the New Negril is officially established, contend­ing that despite the height limit and other measures being put in place when Negril was just being developed as a tourist destination, the environment has still under­gone serious decay.

“For the record, I would like to make my objection to the word ‘unlimited’. I am a hundred per­cent sure there are better choices of words that can be used. And I am convinced that the use of the word ‘unlimited’ was used deliberately. I feel embarrassed listening when I heard the word unlimited,” Reynolds declared.

“I am thinking that our forefathers had a limit on buildings in Negril to preserve the aesthetics of Negril. But we now, in 2019, are opting to convince our local persons, now, to support unlimited buildings. This term ‘Old Negril’ and ‘New Negril’, I object to it. If you are going to leave it open to extended heights, I will object to using the name ‘Negril, attached to that name,” he said.

Hotelier Michael Russell, of White Sands resort, concretized the concerns, stating that he was petrified that the new development plans, would convert Negril into another ‘Downtown Ocho Rios” with an excess number of mass concrete structures.

“When I get leery is when I hear ‘modelling Nassau, modeling South Beach and large buildings’. I am very concerned that Cabinet is going to sanitize our product and it is only going to be one product. In all your scientific looks, you should look at what makes Negril unique and then go from there,” he said.

The huge Royalton Negril all-inclusive hotel, complete with man-made beach. (Photo: royaltonresorts.com)

 

 

 


6 thoughts on “The Concretization of Jamaica Continues: Plans for the “New Negril” (A New Miami South Beach?)

  1. This makes me so sad. As someone who spent almost every weekend in Negril, playing with my siblings on quiet and relaxing beaches you find there when it’s not spring break, this is extremely disappointing. Why can’t Jamaica just be Jamaica and stop trying to be like everyone else? My feeling is that the old men making all the decisions on projects like this have no creative bones in their bodies and therefore feel they must copy a model used elsewhere because that’s the only way to achieve their definition of success.

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    1. Yes, why can’t Jamaica just be Jamaica? It’s as if these “planners” get a rush of blood to the head and think this is “progress.” They think they ARE being creative, but as you say just copying a model. It is so sad.

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