Published On: Fri, Oct 30th, 2020

Legal fight over Planet Hollywood continues

PHILIPSBURG – Planet Hollywood, the all-inclusive successor of the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Casino, will not open its doors at the end of this year and opening in 2021 has also become a practical impossibility due to legal disputes about the building permit for this $600 million project.

On Wednesday, October 28, plaintiff Steven Johnson withdrew an injunction against construction company Balaclava that asked the court to revoke the new building permit the ministry of VROMI granted because it violates administrative law.

Johnson withdrew his lawsuit after the ministry promised the court that it will set a date for public review of the new permit-request no later than November 6 and that no construction activities would begin up to six weeks after a decision has been taken in the imminent objection procedure.

Canadian leisure giant Sunwing Travel Group announced the plans for Planet Hollywood in September 2018 with a promise that the project would employ close to a thousand workers at a 97 percent local employment rate. With 452 suites and a ratio of 2.1 employees per room, the actual potential number of employees is 949, of which 920 would be locals.

The plan for Planet Hollywood consists of a more than seventy meters high, fourteen-story behemoth with a 16,000 square feet (almost 1,500 square meters) casino and five restaurants. According to Caribbean Journal Sunwing will invest $600 million in the all-inclusive resort.

Thtravel.com reported in February 14, 2020, that Sunwing planned to have the project completed toward the end of 2020 but this goal became quickly unrealistic. In August 2019 The Daily Herald reported that construction “will begin in the coming days” – but again, that never happened. On August 16, 2019 Cathy Carasso, sales and marketing manager of the associated Royal Islander Club mentioned “sometime in 2021’ as a possible opening date.

That was all after VROMI rejected Steven Johnson’s appeal against the building permit on July 10, 2019. Johnson then started a LAR-procedure in administrative court. The hearing was on February 24, 2020, and the court ruled on May 15 in his favor: “Granting the permit harms Johnson in his interest as a home owner and resident,” the court stated in its ruling that annulled the building permit. Construction company Balaclava obtained the building permit on April 9, 2019, by ministerial decree. The then Minister of VROMI signed the permit on August 8, 2019, after the ministry had initially rejected Johnson’s objections on July 10.

On Wednesday, Balaclava representatives told the court that the company has no intention to begin with construction activities “in the near future.”

When VROMI announces the date for public review of the permit-request the public has six weeks to file objections. When these objections are rejected, plaintiffs have up to six weeks to take the matter to administrative court. Once the court has ruled on the case, plaintiffs and defendants have another six weeks to file an appeal against the decision.

With these procedures on the line it is impossible for the case to come to its conclusion before the end of the year. The projected construction timeframe is eighteen months. That moves the opening of Planet Hollywood – providing it obtains a valid building permit – towards the end of the summer of 2022.


Related news: VROMI Minister Doran: injunction against Planet Hollywood’s building permit withdrawn