September 22, 2009

The Donald Versus The Scotsmen

Donald Trump is a man who is used to getting exactly what he wants -- no matter the difficulties in attaining success, high costs, the damage to the environment, or even the wishes of the people who own and live on a piece of property he has in his gunsights.

Such is the case in Balmedie Village, near Aberdeen, Scotland. The Donald bought a piece of property near there, a place called Menie Estate, which roughly 200 acres of land surrouding the Menie House, an 18th century mansion that was built atop the ruins of a medieval castle. Trump is planning an extensive development there, including two 18-hole golf courses, a 450-room hotel, conference center and spa, 36 golf villas, 950 holiday homes, accommodation for 400 staff and residential developments comprising 500 houses. The project will be called Trump International Golf Links.

Trump has had problems with the local residents since he purchased the estate in 2006. He changed the name of Menie House, which he plans to turn into the clubhouse of his development, to the Macleod House, a tribute to his mother Mary. Mary MacLeod was born in the Scottish western isles, far away from Balmedie Village, while the Menie family's association with the property dates back some 700 years according to Scottish historians. Michael Woodley, the Baron of Menie and a supporter of the project told the London Times that "The Menie name has been around for hundreds of years, it’s part of Scotland’s heritage. I am disappointed he’s changing it but overall I do support Trump’s golf proposal because I think it will create a lot of jobs."

Local resident Shuna Jenkins said that “it will always be known as Menie House. Trump may have taken away the name plate but he can’t change history.”

The name change may have ired locals, but that row pales in comparison to the environmental battle fought over the property. The Menie Estate property is contiguously a part of a conservation area labled legally in the UK as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), part of a law that protects the interest features of a given SSSIs from development from other damage, and (since 2000) also from neglect. While the ban on development is not absolute under the law there, it is a strong discouraging factor when a proposal for development is raised. When news of Trump's plans traveled, environmental interests joined in with locals opposed to his project.

The site is part a series of sand dunes and other natural habitat; and groups like the Scottish Wildlife Trust bemoan that if it is developed that its natural features will be lost forever. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds even employed golf course designer Mike Wood to develop an alternative routing for a golf links through the area that avoids the SSSI and leaves much of the environment intact.

Trump's own Environmental Statement acknowledged that the project would cause very significant adverse effects on habitats and biodiversity in the Menie Dunes, one of the main qualifying features of the Foveran Links SSSI and that they would effectively be destroyed by the stabilisation necessary to build one golf course. Trump plans two in his master plan.

After much quarreling and bother, the Aberdeenshire Council rejected the projected but were overruled the national government. The Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney approved the proposal, saying there was "a significant economic and social benefit" in the project.

First Minister Alex Salmond added that "the economic and social benefits for the North East of Scotland substantially outweigh any environmental impact."

Now, emboldened by the national government's support, Trump wants surrounding land -- 200 acres is small for even one golf course, much less two and five hundred additional structures. Trump asked for and received permission to add four homes and two plots of land to his master plan, and if the homeowners do not want to sell to him, he has asked He recently received permission to add the plots to the blueprint – and has asked the Aberdeenshire Council to use eminent domain, known as a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to garner him the land he wants should the current landowners and his organization cannot come to an agreement.

Such an agreement seems extremely unlikely in the current climate. While Trump has offered 15% over the current assessed market value and other amenities, one resident, whose property has stunning coastline views, called the offer "pathetic."

David Milne, the owner of one of the parcels Trump is seeking, said that Trumps offer is "is somewhere between laughable and insulting." Milne added that he has no intention of living in one of the "sdtandard boxes" Trump plans to build and that the assessment of his property is suspicious because "appraiser could accurately value his home having never stepped foot inside."

In response, Donald Trump Jr. said that "throw anyone out of their homes – we are trying to accommodate them.”

By forcing the homeowners to sell their land and homes at a price that his firm finds acceptable, under force of government order if necessary.


  1. Kind of strange that the locals would be so up in arms about this "new construction" - geez - just the 18th century ? You'd think it was an heirloom property or something. :-)

  2. Both here in the U.S. and, elsewhere on the planet, there are environmental issues. And, there are environmental issues. Many local historical societies cry 'EPA' or, in this case, SSSI, if they dislike the project.

    Scotland and Ireland have had a great economic decade, but their recovery will be well behind ours. Any job created over there is like two new jobs. One is income for the employees and the other is income for the businesses that will benefit from the original jobs. It is a win, win, win, win situation. Unfortunately, the Donald will probably win also.

  3. When this thing got started, one of the big problems the locals had was that they "knew" who The Donald would be hiring to work the resort - and it wasn't going to be local Scots. The fear was that he would be bringing in a boatload of Eastern Europeans and Muslims.

    I haven't heard anything to the contrary - have you ?

  4. Vince, to easily dismiss environmental issues is nearly as extremist a position as are the tree-hugging hippies against, well, everything.

    The area is, in fact, quite unique to the British Isle, and once it is set in grass, it will be lost forever. Moreover, as a tony private club, even changed, access to it is lost forever as well.

    I don't know if you know of Jockey's Ridge here in North Carolina. It is literally within shouting distance of Kill Devil Hill, the place where the Wright Brothers conducted their first powered airplane flight. It is also the largest sand dune structure east of the Rockies, and is a heritage site for North Carolinians. Were Donald Trump, or anyone else, to buy the site (thankfully a state park) and attempt to develop it into a resort, the hue and cry from this state would make national news. And it would be far more than environmentalists and naysayers that would be against it.

    Ironically, Kill Devil Hill, site of the Wright monument, was also a sand dune before the National Park Service set it in grass to build the concrete monument. It looks absolutely nothing like it used to.

    In short, I think that the two places are relatively similar.

  5. CB - I'm missing the point. Are you saying that the ONLY way land should be is it's natural state ? Doesn't the Kill Devil Hills National Park illustration go against that when "conservationists" level dunes and plant grass to erect a man made monument ?

    I agree that there have to be measures taken to make sure that a developer doesn't do something to destroy the land with chemicals or other waste. Or even to do something completely manufactured like what was done at Whistling Straights, where they "built" a shoreline to resemble Ireland...but that is crumbling and will eventually erode the walls where it was built.

    But the coastline is dotted with natural links courses as well as man made links look-alike courses with hotels and resorts alongside.

    Why is it that because Trump wants to build something, the idea becomes bad ?

  6. I never said that it was bad because Donald Trump wants to do it.

    If it is a bad idea at all it is because so many of the residents seem to be dead set against it, and in fact their local government voted against the project proceeding. At that point the Scottish national government decided to overrule the locals, their own law and give their go-ahead. I can only imagine the cry against federal hegemony over the sanctity of states' rights were that to happen here, and in my view, the situation is somewhat the same over there.

    In terms of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hill itself was not leveled, but was planted with grasses in 1930.

    Finally, not all development is bad, nor is all development good. That sort of extreme attitude is exactly why the US is in decline and unlikely to exist in its current form after the next generation.

  7. Sorry, CB, didn't mean to imply the idea was on your head. You'd think The Donald has been wearing horns under his comb over and tucking in his tail the way it has been reported in the media.

    You'll have to explain how this good and bad idea of development is going to lead to the downfall of America. :-) Trust me, we have a lot bigger problems than a few environmentalist whackos facing off with unscrupulous developers.


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