Petition urges St. Lucia government to stop Dollarama executive from expanding vacation home near UNESCO site
A group called 'The Pitons' Protection Project' started an online petition to halt construction of the expansion of an estate at the foot of The Pitons, the site of two volcanic spires and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Cindy Sherwin/CTV News)
There are more than 20,000 signatures on a petition from a group in Saint Lucia trying to block a senior Dollarama executive from Quebec from expanding his vacation home at the foot of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geoffrey Robillard is the senior vice-president of the import division at the Montreal-based retail giant and purchased the 32-hectare Anse L'Ivrogne estate in 2016 for CAD $11.36 million. The estate is at the base of the Pitons volcanic peaks in an area designated as the Pitons Management area.
The government's tourism ministry said that Robillard was granted the status of "approved developer" in 2016, and the final plans for the one-storey, 265-square-metre house were approved in 2018. Construction began the following year.
The project immediately prompted debate, leading to a government statement being issued in 2020.
"At no time was any aspect of the development in question approved that would threaten the designation of the Pitons Management Area as a World Heritage Site," the minister of tourism said in a statement.
Plans for a second 600-square-metre phase of the vacation home were originally rejected by the island nation's Development Control Authority (DCA). The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court reversed this decision in a July ruling, and ordered the DCA to reconsider Robillard’s development application, "in light of the observations and directions given by the court in this judgment."
"Ultimately, the DCA submitted that restrictions that exist for the preservation and conservation of protected areas cannot amount to the unlawful abrogation of an individual's right to the use and enjoyment of their property," the ruling from High Court Judge Shawn Innocent reads.
The World Heritage Convention of 1972, which protects sites from development, is the basis for protecting the area, the court ruling says, but the convention "has not been incorporated into domestic law, which is necessary for it to be legally protected."
"Unless the State acts assiduously in taking the necessary legislative steps to protect the patrimony, Saint Lucia may very well lose its standing as a World Heritage Site under the Convention," Innocent wrote.
The development application and recent court decision has prompted outcries in the community. A group called "The Pitons' Protection Project" started an online petition to halt construction and reject any future construction requests.
"This area is home to our Twin Peaks — The Pitons — which are an essential part of each Saint Lucian's national pride and identity," the petition on Change.org reads regarding the vacation home.
"Its existence, expanse and composition threatens the natural beauty, historical significance and heritage of our people and country. Further, the development plan reveals unconstitutional limits to access and ease of movement by locals to the public beach adjoining the property."
The almost 3,000-hectare Pitons Management Area was designated a heritage site in 2004. It includes two volcanic peaks linked by the Piton Mitan ridge. Coral reefs cover almost 60 per cent of the water area where hundreds of fish and other sea creatures live.