Published On: Thu, May 14th, 2020

Building permit for Planet Hollywood ruled unlawful

Surf high Great Bay waves - 20200111 (2)

PHILIPSBURG – In August 2019, less than two years after Hurricane Irma, the VROMI Ministry eagerly approved a permit to allow Sunwing’s plan to build Planet Hollywood St. Maarten Beach Resort on the location of the destroyed Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Casino. It was welcome news at the time, but now the administrative court has declared an appeal against the building permit justified. The ruling brings the construction of the project to a grinding halt and makes opening sometime in 2021 an illusion.

On April 9, 2019 construction company Balaclava received its building permit for Planet Hollywood. Steven Johnson, who lives near the project-location, filed an objection. The Ministry of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) declared the objection unfounded on July 10. Just a week later, Johnson took his case to the administrative court demanding that it declare his objection justified; the hearing about the dispute took place on February 24, 2020.

Requests for building permits have to meet eight specific requirements that are established in the building ordinance. A request must, for instance, include two drawings on a scale of 1:100 and mention the number of floors.

VROMI granted the building permit with a reference to article 22 of the building ordinance. This article allows the granting of a reasoned conditional permit. The court ruling notes that the conditions for such a permit must be related to the construction plan and not to legal regulations.

The ministry granted the permit conditionally, it appears from the court ruling. As soon as the conditions were met, approval would follow.

But the court found that these conditions relate to regulations from the building ordinance. “The permit does not meet legal requirements because the conditions are inappropriate,” the ruling states. The permit also lacked a review of technical requirements. “The contents of this permit make legal protection of stakeholders an illusion,” the court ruled.

The drawings of Planet Hollywood were not only missing from the building permit request, they were also missing from the court file. The suggestion by the attorneys for the defendants (VROMI and Balaclava) that these drawings could be obtained through a request under the Public Disclosure Act is, according to the court, “incomprehensible.”

Even better, the court states in its ruling that there are no indications that these drawings are available. Lastly, the court ruled that the law does not contain an article that allows the granting of building permits in stages.

Canadian travel giant Sunwing bought the Sonesta Great Bay property shortly after Hurricane Irma turned the hotel into rubble. Planet Hollywood is to become an all-inclusive resort, fourteen stories high with 450 suites. A report in Forbes claimed that the resort would include a PH spa and beauty bar, a beach club, a 16,000 square-foot casino, and fitness facilities. The project also includes five restaurants, among them a Planet Hollywood eatery and a Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint.

It is currently unclear what the court ruling means for the future of the Planet Hollywood project.

Great Bay Resort Demolition Site

Photo Caption: File photo of the demolition site of the former Great Bay Sonesta Resort & Casino. The top photo shows the Great Bay beach with the location of the empty lot where the former Great Bay Sonesta Resort & Casino used to be.