Turks and Caicos, July 20, 2017 – Providenciales – When most people think of the phrase “The Art of the Deal” – their minds quickly turn to the book authored by now United States President Donald Trump, with Tony Schwartz. The book is said to be a commonsense guide to personal finance and was a ‘best seller’ in the US. However, the deal I would like to know the art of is: why after two years and millions of dollars spent in legal fees across the board – would the 12 storey appeal be withdrawn from the Privy Council by the Tuscany and Venetian Strata Corporations. The council, as you may know, is the highest court in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Many inquiring minds would like to know; myself including.
Nevertheless, before we get to that question, afford me the opportunity to set the stage. Many didn’t quite understand why said Strata Corporations were challenging the building of a 12 storey project, that being – the Ritz Carlton, which is a little over a mile away. To give you some perspective, here are some hotels/resorts between the Ritz Carlton project site and the aforementioned resorts: Ocean Club, Club Mediterranean, Royal West Indies, Caribbean Paradise Inn, The Grace Bay Club, The Oasis at Grace Bay Hotel and Lofts, Villa Del Mar, Ocean Club West, The Pinnacle on Grace Bay, Ports of Call Resort and Seven Stars Resort. That’s eleven (11) different properties in closer proximity to the Ritz Carlton site than the group that sued. It could not be said that The Ritz Carlton would undermine their property value. Nor would it change the makeup of the Grace Bay Beach strip, as it was too far away. Moreover, the often discussed ‘shadow’ would not disturb their guests’ sun bathing, as the distance was too great to cause an impact. So again, why the original lawsuit?
Let’s dig a little deeper. It is reasonable to think that most business people or investors purely operate from a paradigm of self-interest and profit above all else. Principally, this being the heart of capitalism and we ascribe to a capitalistic doctrine here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In addition to the Ritz Carlton’s 12 storey project, I am reliably informed that there are/were at least two (2) other 12 storey projects in the pipeline. However, those project were awaiting the outcome of this court case. One of the projects was to be erected on a vacant site adjacent to one of the resorts named in the lawsuit. Consequently, this case was never about the Ritz specifically. This case was about ‘building height’ threshold. If The Ritz Carlton got the go-ahead, so to would the property next door. This, of course, would have been unfortunate in the complainants view.
Many have speculated that the appeal was withdrawn for political reasons. However, the PDM is on record in their support of the low density high end resort model. A model which they take credit for pioneering. So again, if a change in government for lack of inward investment was the desired outcome for the developers, why withdraw the appeal, if you don’t want 12 storeys in your neighborhood? I’d surely like to know the specifics of the deal that was struck by all parties involved. In a recent TCI Sun newspaper, attorney Conrad Griffiths alludes to a few factors. TCIG, a party in the case, would have a stake in the outcome of the deal. With hope, one that was beneficial for the country. Conversely, the public has a right to know the price of such withdrawal.
A birdie whispered in my ear that a part of the settlement terms is that the Ritz Carlton Project would be ‘allowed’ to move forward at 12 storeys and the two other projects would be ‘allowed’ to move forward at 10 storeys and 8 storeys respectively. Of course the 8 storey project will be adjacent to the 7 storey Venetian thus keeping the developer happy as there will only be a one (1) storey difference in height between the buildings and keeping the aesthetics of the area the same. So self interest and capitalism wins again.
I could be misinformed but given that our Premier recently lauded her support for Freedom of Information in the same TCI Sun newspaper, we trust that she would see fit for the public to be fully informed about the specifics of this deal. Oh, and stating “it’s confidential” – is not a good enough excuse. As we all know, with any secret, the truth will come out in the end. Just a cautionary tale, historically, US Presidents always state that they don’t negotiate with terrorists, and surely – the TCI worker has been terrorized over these late two years by this unfortunate saga in the way of repressed job and career opportunities with a chance for self empowerment in a beloved Turks and Caicos Islands.