Archive for September 13th, 2011

Ryan wants crown land

| 13/09/2011 | 146 Comments

(CNS): Orion development has offered to pay government $10 million immediately for the 300 acres of crown land occupied by the Ritz Carlton and in the Safe Haven area currently on lease to the developer. The premier revealed he is considering the offer by Michael Ryan, in which he has also promised a 2% increase on the current stamp duty rate on all land deals there in perpetuity. Confirming considerable recent speculation about the proposal to give up the Safe Haven land, which belongs to the people, McKeeva Bush indicated that not everyone in government supported the plan and asked the opposition what its position was on the issue. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

“The developer has made a proposal to the government in regards to the parcels of land that comprise the Ritz-Carlton and the previous Safe Haven lands,” he said. “The lease agreements on these properties have already been extended to 99 years. The proposal from the developer is that these leases will be converted to freehold for an upfront payment of $10 million dollars, with an increase in stamp duty of 2% on all transactions in perpetuity.

“This would increase the rate of stamp duty from the current 7.5% up to 9.5% on each transaction. Total revenue is estimated to exceed $600 million dollars over the years,” Bush told the Legislative Assembly on Monday afternoon.

He said that it was the opposition that had offered numerous concessions and benefits, which he accused them of hiding from the public, but had not granted a freehold to the Ritz Carlton developer for the Dragon Bay development, an issue which Bush now said was preventing the project from going ahead.

The news of the proposal to give the publicly owned land away comes on the heels of the ForCayman Alliance with Dart, which also involves swapping two other pieces of crown land in return for more development. The prospect of selling the crown land at Safe Haven is likely to cause further opposition in the community and Bush noted that even government itself was not united on the subject, though he did not say which members of Cabinet was split over the deal.

“While there are some in the government who will support this development, there are others who will not,” Bush said. “Government has facilitated the developer, and I myself am proud of the Ritz Carlton development, but the question is whether to sell those two properties out rightly to the developer, and do we have support for such a move?  That is the question that the government is confronted with.”

He said the opposition has criticized government for not getting things done and they had been hypocritical about this project as they had never conducted any studies or impact assessments and negotiated the deal with no public input and had never revealed its contents.

Now they had the chance not to “beat around the bush” but to say whether or not they support what he said was the crucial need to convert the lease to freehold.

“I ask each of them: Do you support the sale of these two properties to the developer? The government needs a clear and unambiguous answer to this matter from the opposition, and all members of this House.”

Bush said government would never get the land back as it was already committed for 99 years and under the strata title law, if government wanted to re-possess the land at the end of the lease, they could still be obliged to purchase each strata title from the owner of each unit and land from each land owner.

“We have been informed by the developer that the project is ready to start, and can begin employing Caymanians right away. Alternately, the project can stall, we can lose the opportunity for jobs and investment, we can even see the golf course close,” Bush said as he asked the opposition members for a response.

A clear “No” resounded from the opposition benches in response and the opposition leader Alden McLaughlin made it clear that it was a policy position of the PPM not to sell crown land for these types of developments.

CNS has also asked government what the current situation is on the remaining $6 million outstanding duty that the developer owed to government from concessions given on the Ritz Cartlon and is awaiting a response.

See the premier's statement rgarding the Ritz proposal and details of the previous proposed deal for Dragon Bay made with the PPM below.

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