Archive for March 12th, 2012

Lower valley residents ready for ‘quarry’ battle

| 12/03/2012 | 14 Comments

quarry 4.JPG(CNS): The Planning Appeals Tribunal is expected to hear an appeal by Whiterock Investments Tuesday morning in connection with an on-going disputed development in the Lower Valley area of Bodden Town. As a result of procedural objections the appeal which was scheduled for 13 February was cancelled at the last minute. The appeal has been rescheduled and residents who are objecting to what they see as an application to quarry on the doorstep of their homes are preparing once again to present their objections. The tribunal will hear the appeal against a decision made by the CPA one year ago not to allow the excavation of 295,000 cubic yards of fill.

The residents of the Lower Valley Forest community, which is also home to a number of indigenous and native endangered species, have been battling with Whiterock for some 15 years over blasting and excavation in the heart of their quiet, countryside community.
Although the residents had hoped, once again, last year that their long running misery may have ended when the CPA denied the application, the appeal has raised significant concerns, not just for the homeowners but the local environment, which is home to the critically endangered white shouldered bat.

The application in February last year was denied, as was the case in October 2008, on the basis that it wasillegal to pursue activities that would "cause noise and create a nuisance and annoyance to the residents of the area" and "negatively affect the quality of life of the residents in the surrounding area". The developer has filed an appeal stating that the CPA was “erroneous in law, unreasonable and in breach of the rules of natural justice.”

However, allowing the application would certainly be a threat to the natural environment as the developer wishes to level land in the heart of a habitat of particular significance.
As well as being home to the white shouldered bat, which was once thought to be extinct in the Cayman Islands but was rediscovered in the area in 2001, the Department of Environment hopes the forest will become one of the country’s first critical habitats protected in law should the long awaited national conservation law ever be passed.

With no conservation law in place at present, as with every planning issue the CPA or tribunal hears, during this appeal there will be no compulsion for it to consider the environmental implications nor, should the appeal be allowed, would the landowners be under any obligation to carry out an environmental impact assessment.

Both the endangered bat and the residents will be depending on the planning law, which prohibits excavation on such a scale in a residential area. Whiterock has denied allegations by the residents that the original application was a quarry but claims the goal is to level the land for development. The developer also claims that because the blasting will be done during the day the impact of the excavation on residents will be kept to a minimum.

In last year’s application Whiterock also stated that the environmental impact would be minimal as it would move some of the native trees at the site and as a result believed that any species at risk would move to the surrounding area.

Bishop Nicholas Sykes, one of the Mahogany Estate residents who have been leading the fight against the excavation for more than a decade, said that although the CPA had ruled against Whiterock three times, the residents once again would be forced to fight for their homes, their right to peace in their community and the environment.

The appeal will be heard in theconference room at the Government Administration Building at 9:00am.

 

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Filmmakers wanted for regional video challenge

| 12/03/2012 | 1 Comment

Yiannaki (243x300).jpg(CNS): Young Caymanian filmmakers have the chance to take part in a regional video challenge organised by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), through its youth outreach programme known as Vybzing. The theme is  “Citizen Security” and young people living in Cayman  aged between 16-25, who want to take part in the contest must produce a three minute video giving this unique interpretation on the issue. The short films will be rated by a panel of local judges and the first placed winner will receive US$1500. There will also be a second prize of US$1000, a third prize of US$650, and a People’s Choice Award of US$250.

Young people wishing to participate in the Challenge may visit the Bank’s website: www.caribank.org or www.cdbvybzing.org/facebook for further information. Deadline for the submission of videos is midnight on April 29, 2012.

During the period May 1-7, 2012, the public is invited to visit the facebook page and vote for their favourite video in the People’s Choice Award. The issue of “Citizen Security” has been singled out by CDB President, Dr. Warren Smith, as one of the hurdles challenging development in the Region, and CDB has been paying particular attention to this subject.

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$50M increase to public purse

| 12/03/2012 | 40 Comments

bag-of-cash.jpg(CNS): The premier will be presenting a spending increase of around $50 milllion to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Assembly Tuesday morning when he chairs a special session in his role as minister of finance. The committee will meet at 8:30am tomorrow but there will be no sitting of the Legislative Assembly or any change to this financial year’s appropriation law. Although Cabinet can, under the Public Management and Finance Law, approve a 10% increase in government spending without requiring a change to the legislation, government may have surpassed that threshold.

The government will be bringing a 200 page supplementary appropriations document to the committee hearing not only to move sums around from one ministry, portfolio or department to another but it will also be increasing public spending by more than $50 million, which is more than 10% of the core government budget for the 2012 to 2013 financial year.

The independent member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, said he believes that the government should bring an amendment to this year’s appropriation bill and actually change the law after a debate in the Legislative Assembly as he believes the spending increase is too great to be dealt with purely by Finance Committee.

“In reality I think government needs to change the law," Miller said. “Nevertheless, I shall be using the opportunity of Finance Committee to ask questions to find out how it is that the government needs to increase spending so much.”

With government now expecting a significant deficit bythe year end on 30 June, in contrast to the original budgeted forecast of a small surplus, it is not clear how government intends to fund the deficit given that it is not allowed to enter into further borrowing under the terms of the Public Management and Finance Law.

The government spending increases also appear to be in contrast with the framework for financial responsibility that the premier signed in London with the UK's FCO minister last month. That document requires the Cayman Islands Government, among other things, to control government spending and reduce costs.

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Electronic tag gets in way of work for accused man

| 12/03/2012 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although the electronic tagging of defendants on bail awaiting trials has proved a positive resource for law enforcement officials as well as those accused of a crime one young accused man could lose his job because the tags are not waterproof the court heard Friday. Defence attorney John Furness pointed out the difficulties one of his clients faced as a result of working for a local watersports operator when he said the tags don’t allow the wearers to go below six feet in the water. The lawyer also pointed out that the tag was becoming an issue as his employer was concerned about the reaction tourists may have.

Furness said hewould be making an application to vary the bail conditions imposed on Frederick Booth in order to try and save his job.

The idea of tagging defendants who are on bail awaiting trial is to enable law enforcement to keep an eye on suspects while at the same time cutting down on costs to the public purse and also helping those accused but not found guilty of any crime to keep in work and finance themselves. In most cases the bail conditions of suspects who are tagged usually ensure that curfews are lifted during the hours of work to allow defendants to keep their jobs. 

Booth along with a second man has been charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm following the discovery of a hand gun and ammunition in the vicinity of Lawrence Boulevard in George Town on 26 March.

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Police call a stop to missing man search

| 12/03/2012 | 0 Comments

Nathan Clarke 24 Feb 2012(3).jpg(CNS): Updated -Officers leadingthe search for missing teaching assistant, Nathan Clarke, confirmed Monday that the official search has now been called off some 16 days since Nathan was last seen walking towards the water’s edge on Seven Mile  Beach near Calico Jack’s. Despite hundreds of civilian volunteers working with RCIPS officers and the deploment of major resources including specialist dogs from Miami there has been no sign of Nathan. Only the 31 year old man's cell phone has been recovered during the search. “We have completely exhausted the search areas at land and at sea, but unfortunately we have not been able to find Nathan,"Chief Inspector Richard Barrow, who has been overseeing the search operation.

"I would like to thank all of the volunteers who came out day after day and tirelessly assisted our officers during the searches. I know that Nathan’s parents, his brother and sister, his fiancée Lisa and her parents are also very grateful to all those who have helped and shown support during this difficult time,” he added.

Although the land and sea searches have been called off officers stressed that the investigation into what happened to Nathan is still active and hey continue to appeal for people on the Island to remain vigilant and to report immediately any information that may assist police with the enquiry.

"The families will continue to be kept fully informed of progress," a police spokesperson noted.
 

Nathan was last seen by his grilfriend at around 8:30 close to the water’s edge on Saturday 26 February outside Calico Jack’s bar

Anyone with information can call the RCIPS on 949-3999 and they can send images of the night he disappeared to nathanclarkeinfo@yahoo.com for other details visit the Find Nathan Facebook page.

 

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Ryan loses control ofRitz

| 12/03/2012 | 83 Comments

MIKE+RYAN+3.jpg(CNS): Following the recent revelations regarding legal action against the developer of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and his various companies, RC Cayman Holdings LLC, the secured lender to the companies involved in the development of the resort announced the appointment of receivers Monday. Kris Beighton and Keith Blake of KPMG, Grand Cayman have been made joint receivers of Cesar Hotelco (Cayman) Ltd, CondoCo Grand Cayman Resort Ltd, Cesar Properties Ltd and CondoCo Properties Ltd, which were involved in the development of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and are all owned by Micheal Ryan (left), who has now lost control of the property. In a statement regarding the appointment, KPMG said it was a legal step taken by RC Cayman under its security arrangements.

“The appointment of the Joint Receivers will have no noticeable impact upon the day-to-day operations of the resort, which have been and will continue to be managed and operated by Ritz-Carlton,” a spokesperson for the joint receivers said, adding that they intend to work closely with Ritz-Carlton to ensure that guests, visitors, owners and tenants continue to enjoy the five star experience and service for which the resort is known. 

A spokesperson stated that it was very early days for the receivers but the management team from the Ritz Carlton, which is part of the Marriot Group, would continue to operate the resort as normal.

This comes on the heels of legal action filed in the Grand Court last month by RC Cayman Holdings, the current owner of a $250 million loan used to build The Ritz-Carlton. The company, which acquired the loan in May last year, filed a civil suit seeking an injunction against a number of defendants, including Ryan, to prevent them from "interfering with" its attempts to take control of the development.

The loan used to build the Seven Mile Beach property was originally extended by The Royal Bank of Scotland in 2001. Six years later RBS sold the loan, which at the time had outstanding principal and interest of $161 million, for an undisclosed amount to New York-based Credit Suisse subsidiary Column Financial, Inc., which immediately increased the size of the loan to $250 million and solid it to RC Cayman, but it is not clear how much of that original amount remains outstanding.

Following the writ, Michael Ryan had said in a statement to OffshoreAlert that there was an issue as to whether the lender was entitled to take control. "It is hoped and expected that an agreement between the parties to resolve this matter will be concluded in the near future," Ryan told the Miami based watchdog.

The developer of the Ritz Carlton also owes the Cayman Islands government over $6 million in deferred payments on customs duties on material used to build the resort. With the hotel now in the hands of the privately appointed receivers, it is not clear where the Cayman government stands in relation to its ability to recover that outstanding debt to the public purse.

Related articles:

Ritz-Carlton faces takeover

Ritz duty still not paid

 

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Police look for owners of stolen goods

| 12/03/2012 | 13 Comments

Toshiba laptop March 2012.JPG(CNS): Police are looking for the owners of two pieces of stolen property recovered last week. A toolkit and a laptop, both suspected of being stolen, were recovered by police last week during the course of an investigation. Officers from George Town police station have circulated the photographs of the items in the hope of reuniting the stolen goods with their owners. Detective Sergeant Ian McDonald is asking anyone who recognises either the Toshiba laptop or the Performance tool kit to contact him as soon as possible as he reminded owners to take a record of their valuables.

“All too often when people report their property stolen, particularly electrical items such as laptops, they are unable to provide us with details of the make, model or serial numbers,” he said. “That’s why when we do recover items which we believe to be stolen it’s difficult to reunite the owners with their property. People should take a note of these important details and also consider marking their property with UV pens.”

toolkit 12 March 2012.JPGDS McDonald is also warning people who buy property like laptops privately to be cautious. "If you are offered a deal that’s too good to be true, or the seller is unable to provide genuine paperwork/ receipts for the equipment, you run the risk of being prosecuted for handling stolen property.“

DS McDonald can be contacted at George Town police station 949-4222. Anyone who wishes crime prevention advice should contact their local police station.

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Young men deny having guns

| 12/03/2012 | 0 Comments

court good.jpg(CNS): Two young men both charged with possession of unlicensed firearms in relation to two separate offences pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in Grand court on Friday. As the police increase the pressure on local men suspected of being involved in gangs, they have made several arrests relating to gun crimes recently. However, both Robert Aaron Crawford and Kurt Carter pleaded not guilty to the respective firearms charges against them which include a nine-millimetre luger and a .38 revolver as well as ammunition.

Crawford was arrested in November last year following a car smash on the Esterly Tibbetts highway. He was charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm after police apprehended him as he tried to escape from the scene of the crash at around 3am in the morning. Police said at the time of his arrest that a nine millimetre Luger and ammunition was found in the bushes close to where he was caught.

Carter who was arrested following an incident on Hurst Road in Savannah in January has also pleaded not guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm as well as wounding and unlawful use of a firearm in connection with the accusation that the teen shot and wounded Sean Dunbar.

Crawford was remanded in custody to Northward is set to go to trial before a judge alone in August and Carter who was also remanded in custody to the prison will return to court shortly to set a date for his trial.

Meanwhile, Leighton Rankine Jr also appeared in Grand Court for the first time on Friday morning having been served a seven count indictment relating to a shooting outside Club 7 last month. Rankine was arrested in the early hours of Ash Wednesday following the shooting and has been charged with attempted murder as well as possession of an unlicensed firearm after the gun used to shoot the victim was recovered at the scene.

 

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Activists keep up pressure

| 12/03/2012 | 77 Comments

IMG-20120310-00044.jpg(CNS): The various alliances and coalitions fighting to preserve the West Bay Road and stop the crown land swap being proposed with the Dart group were out in force on Saturday, keeping up the pressure on government. More than sixty cars as well as buses assembled at the cricket pitch in George Town in the afternoon for a motorcade, which took the protestors from the capital along the West Bay Road, past Camana Bay into West Bay and back to the stretch of road that will be closed if government goes ahead with the proposed plan.

Dozens and dozens of people who are opposed to the closure of the road for a number of reasons lined the roadside waving a variety of placards in protest about what many people believe is a poor deal for the Caymanian people.

Despite holding up traffic, the motorcade generated considerable support from other motorists and the community in general as the line of cars made its way from the capital to the premier’s district.

Although the group is facing an uphill struggle as Dart has already began work on the Esterly Tibbetts extension and has signed a preliminary deal with the National Roads Authority and government, the activist remained steadfast and determined in their opposition to the plans that they believe will also limit access to the last remaining undeveloped stretch of Seven Mile Beach. The Dart Group has also given the government a cash payment of $5 million as part of the preliminary deal, which the premier has said will be used for the save the mortgage programme and a number of community projects.

At an East End public meeting last month the premier stirred up controversy when he said  that around $200,000 of that money would go towards projects in the district which would be led by John McLean Jr, who plans to run in the next general election and whom McKeeva Bush has endorsed as the UDP’s preferred candidate.

Although Bush later denied saying he was giving the money to McLean, it was made very clear that the project proposals the young would-be politician had taken to government for the district would be directly funded from this first tranche of Dart funds.

This first $5 million is expected to form part of a larger cash payment of around $20 million if the full investment deal with government goes ahead.

As well as making their opposition to the proposed deal which would see a stretch of road that is crown land swapped for land in West Bay and Barkers, many of the activists were also protesting against the premier and his government.

The motorcade came on the heels of a major demonstration in Bodden Town on Thursday evening  against an another element of the planned investment deal, which includes swapping the George Town landfillsite for one in Midland Acres.

The various groups and coalitions that are opposing the controversial deal are also planning further demonstrations and intend to hold a rally outside the Legislative Assembly once the country’s parliament returns.

Although the premier has scheduled a meeting of Finance Committee early Tuesday morning before he heads to Washington, no dates have been released for legislators to return to the LA to deal with government’s legislative business.

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UK wanted criminals to be named

| 12/03/2012 | 0 Comments

uk criminal.jpg(Daily Mail): Hundreds of dangerous criminals whoare on the run – including murderers and rapists – will be named publicly for the first time. Previously, police and government officials had refused to identify these offenders for fear of breaching data protection or human rights rules. But in a major victory for the Daily Mail, ministers are to overturn the ban and publish a list every three months. It is hoped the shift will see more offenders identified with the help of members of the public and put back behind bars. Justice minister Nick Herbert, who campaigned in Opposition for more openness in the criminal justice system, will write to chief constables in coming days to set out how the system will work.

Senior police officers will have to disclose the names unless there are good reasons not to, he will say. The list will include details of those criminals designated as ‘unlawfully at large’. That includes anyone who has escaped from prison, or failed to return to jail from day release.

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