Cabot in the Rough in Saint Lucia?

Has Ben Cowan-Dewar hit one into the cat box in Saint Lucia?

What I’m saying, for those of you not as familiar with the old golf lingo as I am since I googled it 10 minutes ago, is: has Cowan-Dewar actually run into an obstacle on his way to turning 360 acres of the northern tip of Saint Lucia into a luxury golf resort?

To recap the story: Cowan-Dewar and his partner Mike Keiser, who between them own a growing number of golf courses, including Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, are building a luxury golf resort and real estate development in Saint Lucia and the site they’ve chosen, on the Point Hardy peninsula, in addition to abutting some of the island nation’s best beaches also sits on an ancient Indigenous burial ground.

Cabot St. Lucia sod-turning ceremony

Ben Cowan-Dewar and St. Lucian PM Allen Chastanet at sod-turning ceremony for Cabot Saint Lucia, June 2020.

The idea of turning Point Hardy into a golf resort dates to 2007, when the property was sold to Raffles Hotels & Resorts, which received permission from Saint Lucia’s Development Control Authority (DCA) to develop “an 18-hole golf course and luxury villas, condos and estate lots.” The 2008 financial crisis put paid to that plan and the land ended up in the hands of the Bank of Nova Scotia, from which Cowan-Dewar and Keiser, who seem to be on a never-ending search for land they can turn into golf courses, bought it.

In 2019, Cowan-Dewar staged a sod-turning ceremony for Cabot Saint Lucia that was attended by then-Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of the United Workers Party (UWP).

But the sale — and the plans for the golf resort — were not universally popular. Critics raised issues I’ve written about like beach access and environmental and archeological concerns. A big question involved what is known as the “Queen’s Chain,” the strip of coastal land (about 238 square miles altogether) owned by the state, which can lease it but not sell it.

Alison King, chair of the Saint Lucia National Trust Council, told me leasing Queen’s Chain land to developers is common — Raffles had been granted Queen’s Chain leases for its Point Hardy development — but:

[W]e believe that, in fact, if property changes hands it should not [entail] automatic transfer of a lease, the Queen’s Chain lease should come back to the government, and that’s something that we are advocating for in terms of Queen’s Chain policy management.

One critic of the Cabot deal was Philip J. Pierre, leader of Saint Lucia’s Labour Party, who said that at the time of the sod-turning, Cabot didn’t fully own the Point Hardy land and had not received planning approval for the development.

In July 2021, Labour won the general elections and Pierre became prime minister. And on February 2, his Minister of Infrastructure, Ports, Transport, Physical Development and Urban Renewal, Stephenson King, appeared on Choice TV’s State of the Nation with host Calixte George, Jr and was asked about issues related to Cabot Saint Lucia.

(In passing, King is a former Saint Lucian prime minister — he took over as PM in 2007 after his predecessor, Sir John Compton, died in office. Moreover, he was part of Chastanet’s UWP government, quitting the party just before the 2021 elections to run as an Independent.)


Preserving patrimony

Calixte George, Jr, who also sits on the council of the Saint Lucia National Trust, asked King about the public concerns about Cabot’s development and King replied that the government “had looked at all the issues” and “had conversations with the various partners and players in this whole thing” and had decided that “the patrimony of this country must be preserved.”

[W]e have decided that public access to the beach must not be restricted. So in the overall development, there are two beaches, you know them, Secret and Donkey Beach…We have said to access those beaches, by virtue of the fact that all of the lands around those beaches are private, owned by Cabot now, the Queen’s Chain must be released. And Cabinet has taken a decision on that.

Stephenson King and Calixte George Jr

Stephenson King and Calixte George Jr

King said a third beach, Cas-en-Bas, home to Marjorie’s, a beachfront business operated on the Queen’s Chain by a local vendor, would also remain accessible to the public. Marjorie’s business, he said, would not be touched:

In terms of access to the beach, we have decided and taken the decision that the access will not be a footpath, it will be clearly, a driveway, a road, leading to the beach with parking and recreational facilities for the people of this country.

As for the Amerindian burial site, King said the lease would be taken back by the government.

King said the government’s decisions were “not intended in any way to prevent the developer from developing. We believe that, notwithstanding that decision, the development can run.”

And I believe the developers, if they care, in truth, must respect the position of the government and people of Saint Lucia.

I hope to have a response from the critics of Cabot’s development plans I have spoken with previously, but they say they want to get more clarity on just what steps the government has taken before commenting.


Dream Golf magazine coverIn other Cabot News

I signed up to the Cabot newsletter and today’s was just a link to a publication called Dream Golf which opens with an editorial by Chris and Michael and Michael Keiser (i.e. Cowan-Dewar’s partner Mike Keiser and his sons) which begins:

At the start of 2020, no one could have imagined a worldwide pandemic would lead to an incredible surge of interest in golf around the world. But that’s exactly what’s happened over the last two years, and despite the challenges we’ve faced, we’ve also been able to grow and plan on future growth based on this incredible surge of demand for the game we all love.

COVID-19: bad for the world, good for the Keisers.