Archive for July 21st, 2011

Cindy heads northeast across the Atlantic

| 21/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The third tropical storm of the year is unlikely to cause any trouble as it heads off across the Atlantic. Cindy, which formed Wednesday afternoon, is moving at almost 28 mph towards the northeast. Although currently packing winds of more than 60mph the National hurricane said the fish storm was likely to strengthen only a little more before weakening as it passed into cooler waters.  Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 85 miles but Cindy poses no threat to land as she is located in the mid-Atlantic.
 

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Tourism body offers backing to Dart plans

| 21/07/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The directors of the country’s private sector tourism body have thrown their support behind the recent agreement between the Cayman government and the Dart group. CITA said that its board directors recently met with a Dart representative regarding the 'FORCayman Investment Alliance' and spent some time asking questions and discussing the various proposals that form part of the investment deal and land swap with government. The CITA directors were particularly supportive of Dart’s plans for the landfill and its goal to redevelop the derelict Courtyard Marriot into a four or five star resort as they said these would both provide a boost to the tourism product.

“Overall CITA was pleased to hear that Dart has offered a solution for two of the top issues that have been previously identified by CITA as critical success factors for the tourism industry,” the CITA directors stated in a release on Wednesday.

“CITA has stated publicly over the last three years that the landfill and lack of solution to manage Cayman's solid waste is detrimental to Cayman's tourism product. Not only is our main asset at risk, the natural environment, but the negative impression that the dump has on guests is also damaging to the reputation of the Cayman Islands as a leading tourism destination.”

The directors said the development of a new land fill inclusive of the facilities to accommodate recycling would be a major benefit to all residents and tourists.

“This project will provide the infrastructure to start an island wide recycling program which is a seen as a top priority by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. As an industry the members are eager to support such a programme that would mitigate the effects of solid waste created and look forward to being a part of the solution,” officials from CITA added.

However, Dart has not yet made it clear what will be happening with the new landfill which is said proposed to be developed at a new site in the Midland Acre area of Bodden Town. The firm has stated it will not be managing Caymans solid waste issue but will merely be providing the land and basic infrastructure for the site.  There is still no confirmation from the ministry what will happen to Wheelabrator the US based firm which won the original bid to operate and manage the country’s waste system.

This included mining the current landfill and converting that waste in to energy which was to be sold to CUC.  Without the actual dump in the package it is not clear whether the US firm will be taking on the waste management under the new arrangements or whether the Department of Environmental Health will take on the management of the new landfill once it’s ready for use.

Aside from throwing its support behind the plans for Dart to take care of the dump CITA also offered its support for Dart to redevelop the Courtyard Marriot as the directors said the tourism body has been urging government for some time to do all it can to address the issue of derelict tourist properties.

Officials said members were pleased to see that Dart would be redeveloping the site into something that is expected to enhance the Cayman Islands tourism product. Despite some controversy in the wider community about the movement of the West Bay Road the CITA directors offered their support.

“The changes to West Bay Road in relation to the development are positive for both enhanced residential use and tourism, in so far as creating an improved and expanded public beach and a second beach on the northern side on West Bay road,” it added.

The body also welcomed the news that Barkers would be preserved as a National Park which it said would also benefit the overall tourism product but noted that there was a pressing need to implement the National Conservation Law but the zoning was a step in the right direction.

The directors said that they had put several questions to the Dart representative regarding fair competitive business practice for all members in the future and said they are now waiting for a response

“Overall Dart has a good proven track record for creating developments that promote economic growth and stability as well as improving the overall tourism product which CITA feels goes a long way when considering future proposals,” CITA added as it gave its backing for the overall plans for the alliance.

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DoE queries Emerald Sound

| 21/07/2011 | 39 Comments

(CNS): Comments submitted to Central Planning Authroity (CPA) by the Department of the Environment last year reveal a number of concerns about the proposed Emerald Sound development, which is due to be heard by the authority next month and proposes to cut canals from the ocean through to the inland site. One of the key issues, the DoE points out is that the precedent setting project has a costal works component that would require approval from both the CPA and Cabinet before it could go ahead.  In its notes the DoE said “A decision to approve a canal development outside of North Sound is essentially a policy decision that affects the future development of the rest of the country.”

The emergence of the development before the CPA has local residents deeply concerned as a petition with more than 1100 signatures against the project was submitted to the planning department last January. The application was first submitted at the end of 2009 but there has been no movement on the project since then.

Burns Connolly, who is representing the developer, explained to CNS that the plans had been on hold while a costal works license was processed for the project. However, he stated that it was recently discovered that the developer does not need to wait on that license before the proposals can come before the CPA.

The CPA will hear the application on 3 August, a time when a number of residents objecting to the project are off island and unable to attend. However, the CPA has refused to change the date at the applicant’s request. Connolly denied this stating that the development team was notified of the date by the CPA and they too had to alter plans in order to make it.

Those who are opposing the project will be holding a meeting on Thursday evening (details below) in order to discuss the environmental threats posed by the project. The DoE has warned that the plans include excavation of the seabed in a designated scenic zone which is protected under the Marine Parks Regulations. (See notes submitted to CPA below)

“The replenishment zone is to protect marine habitats which are critical to aiding the replenishment of populations of marine species, in particular conch and lobster. Mangrove and seagrass habitats play pivotal roles in this replenishment process. Any activity which removes or substantially alters the mangrove and seagrass habitats would have serious consequences on the recovery of key species in the Replenishment Zone,” the DoE states. It has also raised real concerns about the controversial canals and pointed to the real danger that these could pollute the South Sound. 

Among the myriad questions the project raises, the DoE also queries the need for the development and urges the CPA to have the applicant provide an Economic Impact Statement or Cost Benefit Analysis to demonstrate the net economic benefit to the country.

The relocation of the road also raises concern for the DoE, which noted that government should not be relocating roads to assist developers gain lucrative returns without benefit to the wider public. “The precedent that this application would set should approval be granted may spark similar types of applications to arise in the future on narrow coastal real estate in other areas of South Sound, West Bay Road, Pease Bay, North Side, East End and even on the Sister Islands.”

The DoE stressed the need for owners of waterfront property to create developments in harmony with the natural environment.

The residents and other objectors say the development will leave them vulnerable to tidal inundation during hurricanes and storms and the canals will increase the risk to properties and lives of hundreds of people in Old Crew Road, Bel Air Drive and Cayman Crossings.

As well as setting a dangerous precedent, the movement of the road, which is crown land, will be turned into profit for the developer, the objectors say, creating a dozen ocean side lots but the public which owns the land will not benefit.  There are also concerns that the development site is deep swampy peat, making it difficult to seal off with marl leading to seepage into the Sound via the canals.

“Badden Kirkonnell, who previously owned the land in 1988, lost his excavator exploring the land. He realized it was uneconomical and unfeasible to develop the land because of how deep the peat was,” one of the objectors revealed.

Connolly has said the objections are merely myths and misinformation. The entire canal path was surveyed last year for peat depth and the deepest area was “minus 2 feet”, with an average of depth of “sea level”, he said. “No part of the canal will leave exposed peat to the canal water,” Conolly told CNS.

He said the current application involves the development of approximately 90 acres of land on the landside and that the 22 lots on the seaside are not a part of the application. The client has applied for the coastal works simultaneously for the deepening of an area of about 0.7 acres to go from the shoreline to a previously dredged area in the sound which has deeper water.

In total, he said, the plan calls for 81 home sites, approximately 160 apartments over time and a small mooring basin supported by a 6-8 foot deep winding canal. He described the development as “extremely low density … using up less than 40 percent” of its potential.

Conolly said that the developer was not moving the road to create lots on the seaside as full surveyed lots already exist. “The road movement is to allow double bicycle lanes and separate pedestrian lanes and quality landscaping,” he said. “The road will be higher and thus less susceptible to wave impact.” However, this is not a view held by other experts or many of those objecting to the plans.  

He also denied that moving it would set a precedent as some 3,000 feet of South Sound Road was moved to allow the creation of the Pirates Lair development, Anne Bonny Crescent, Mary Reid Crescent, as well as the rugby and squash/tennis clubs in 1970. Conolly stated that other parts of the island have had the roads moved away from the sea after hurricanes.

The project would not affect any mangroves, he said, maintaining that there are none at the site of the canal entrance but noted that the developer plans to replant some mangroves as per the coastal works application. However, the replenishment of mangroves is notoriously difficult and the DoE has noted that mangroves are at risk in the face of this proposed development.

Connolly further claimed that there was no increased risk of flooding as the development will not be less than 7-8 feet above sea level. “By the time water exits over the top of the canal, surrounding areas will be under approximately 4 feet of water from seawater that crosses the remaining road, which at points is only 2 1/2 feet above sea level,” he said.

The  public meeting will be held on Thursday evening  (21 July) 6pm at 36 Hinds Way. Anyone who requires further information is requested to contact katrinajurn@gmail.com

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