A lost opportunity?

| 06/06/2012

The proponents of closing a portion of the West Bay Road have closed their eyes to the great opportunity that the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway brings. I have never been directly involved in the tourism sector of our economy but over many years I have read and heard from those involved that our tourism product needs to be improved. This ETH extension would allow a significant improvement in my opinion.

We have a development company that apparently intends to develop multiple hotel properties. It is claimed that these properties will need direct “beach frontage” to be successful.

Other persons have already pointed out that this frontage is in no way any guarantee of success, as seen by the struggles of existing hotels, that are on much, much better direct beach frontage. This company also does not wish to wait for some future government to possibly extend the ETH through their land, thereby creating even more opportunities for the developer.

(As a side note, query whether the land forthe road corridor should actually cost a future government anything because often the increase in the adjacent land value will compensate for the appropriation of the corridor, making it a win-win process.)

Once the ETH extension is complete the volume of traffic on WBR will drop significantly. This is the start of the opportunity. The reduction of the maximum speed on WBR to 25mph, which has been talked about for quite some time, would be the next step and drop the traffic volume further. This would then create a zone along the entire western side of the island, where our very valuable tourism clientele can live/play/visit in a family friendly environment.

The existing WBR can gradually be converted into an “avenue” with more shade — and colour — providing flora (maybe in sections of the existing middle lane), and with pedestrian crossing zones with lights or even lower speeds in high volume areas, and traffic-calming measures to automatically enforce the maximum speed, such as bumps,
as well as cycle lanes.

This would enable our tourism visitors (has anyone really considered the situation from their perspective?) to move about from WB to GT, while visiting all of the included amenities, without ever travelling on a fast multi-lane road where most of them are driving on the “wrong” side. Another benefit would be to have a route conducive to older resident drivers who, quite sensibly, might prefer not to deal with faster multiple lanes of traffic and roundabouts. Plus it leaves the WB/GT alternate route, which was always envisioned since SMB development began, in case of problems on the new main route.

This change of WBR use will also promote some increase of development on the east side of WBR. Potential developers would likely be more willing to invest since the guests of their properties would only have to deal with limited, slow-moving traffic for beach access, as would the hotels by the current development company.

Additional (light-controlled) pedestrian crossings could be added as incentives for new properties as needed. Local companies would also be able to offer new/more outdoor/healthy activities, such as bicycle/segway/walking tours, and the tour/water sports/taxi/bus transport companies could move around collecting customers in a smoother and safer environment.

Close your eyes and imagine some future tourists renting electric bicycles to visit the Turtle Farm or go shopping from a WBR condo/ hotel or even a cruise ship via this scenic avenue without any fear of fast moving traffic.

We are told that the ETH extension is to compensate for the WBR closure. I do not really agree with that scenario as the trade is not fair (plus additional issues brought up by others). If the closure proceeds, the country will forever have closed the door to the opportunites I have described.

Vehicular traffic will always have to use the ETH to get around this closed section and the idea of speed reduction on WBR loses its effect, especially if other developments request that same agreement. The properties on the closed section(s) will benefit greatly, but that is a selfish proposal when compared to the longer term benefits for sustaining/improving our overall tourism product.

The persons who should be heard from on this subject are the owners of the hotel/condominium/tour/water sports/restaurant/retail businesses that operate in this area. Let us hear if they consider that this closure proposal has any benefits to their existing or future product offering. What do they see happening to their business activity (in the non-closure areas) over the next 20 years if this proposal continues?

Development benefits are greatly desired but should not be restricted in their focus. They should be for the long term benefit of the entire country.

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Category: Viewpoint

Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am against closing the West Bay Road but I have no problem if Dart wants/needs to have road access to his multiple properties and will put in another road for Cayman that we can all use.  My main reasons for objecting to the road closure are 1. we will sacrifice several of our beach access rights as they exist and have existed long before development started here. 2.we would lose what little beach views we have now on that drive which our visitorscome to see. 3. it will take away from the island charm and turn us into another development disaster and run our tourists away to other islands and places that still have that laid back island charm.  I am a tour guide here and everyday I take tourists to the Eastern Districts because they have/want to get away from the commercial hustle and bustle and complain that they have to get up at 6am to go secure a little spot on the beach because since the beach is small all the chairs get taken and it is very crowded.  That problem and turn off is only going to get worse and worse as we smother ourselves with concrete like we are doing.  Add the unnecessary oversized port facitlity that will block off the gorgeous harbour view that makes our downtown area so unigue and that will put the nail in the coffin.  More and bigger development is only going to make a very few rich people richer.  It will NOT benefit Cayman or Caymanians and those are reasons enough to fight against it.  We already have the problems of a sub-standard education and health care system for such a wealthy place and an unacceptable high rate of unemployment because our greedmongers in Government over the years have bowed to developers and filled their pockets and forgot/ignored two of the most important parts of our infrastructure.  Its time to slow down the pace of the West Bay Road development and concentrate on the bigger problems we have here.  If Dart wants to make a contribution here that will really help Cayman, let him take over the old Hyatt and restore that and then we can discuss future developments elsewhere.  Ignoring the plights we already have here will not make them go away.  It is time for Government to take a serious look at how Caymanians are faring in their own country and concentrate their efforts to making Cayman a place where they can succeed and thrive instead of pushing them into failure and ultimately extinction as is happening now.  The rest of you that live and work here also must respect that you grossly outnumber us and you all have other places to go when the bottom drops out here.  Caymanians have nowhere else to go and when we petition against things that we know are not in the best interest of all….it is also for your benefit not just ours.   

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ray, Can you give an example of a development that has "long term benefit"? I've heard this thrown about recently and I'm not sure what people mean specifically.  Would an Atlantis like Bahamas be long term benefit? 

    • Anonymous says:

      Every development has some long term benefit be it ongoing employment, fees, economic activity via the business, etc, etc. Some have more than others and some can remove the opportunity for others. The key is to attempt to determine what gives the most and widest ranging benifits. Not toselect something because it "sounds" good and ignore the other possibilities.

  3. Anonnymous says:

    Great proposal!! I actually did what Ray suggested – closed my eyes and envisioned WB road as he described it.  It was a beautiful vision.  If the objectors to the closure had come from the perspective, instead of the derogatory and angry rhetoric that has gone on, perhaps there could have a comprise and we could have ended up with this beautiful "avenue" .

  4. Anonymous says:

    While i agree with by far most of what you envision here Ray, i see all the benefits (except creating a Beach front property for ONE developer) as completely in line with TWO roads.

    The existing SMB Road at 25mph and multiple lit/raised crossings AND the ETH at 40mph! BTW, there is no logical reason that SMB Road not have speed limit lowered and crossings installed years ago!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Do you remember West Bay road before the ETH was opened? I do, it could take an hour or more to go from the four way stop in West Bay to George Town. But the NRA had a plan (when they became the NRA) set in place many years before, they would open a new road parallel to the West Bay road, the now ETH. The ETH was only opened about two thirds of its eventual length and the remaining third would open when the traffic built up and the last third was needed. But now we are going backwards, we’re closing nearly a mile of the West Bay road and putting all the traffic back to a single road (be it 2 lanes or not) what happens when traffic gets to the point where it takes an hour to go from the West Bay four way stop to George Town? We have no more roads to open, no more land to use. The closing has absolutely nothing to do with Tourism for Cayman; it is about DART making money simple as that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Please….How blind can YOU be?  Tourism product improved by closing ocean views?  What do you think tourist come to your Island for?  The only think you have going for you is the Ocean. 

     

    Multiple hotel properties???????  Have you noticed how many vacant hotel rooms you have?  I have!  I have counted as few as 16 or 17 rooms rented out at the Westin once. 

     

    It will be a big mistake to close West Bay Road.  Yes, the extention is needed for residents of Grand Cayman but closing West Bay Road will hurt the Island.

    • Anonymous says:

      So you read the article and got that the writer was advocating FOR the closure of a section of WB Road? Please re-read it as that is not what is said.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Ray for this very sensible proposal. I should say thanks for having the courage to write in and sign your name to it. This is the obvious solution to the WBR issue. 

     

    How irrational to reroute and close a road to meet the demand of one developer when the whole of the West Bay Road is a disaster unfolding in its current state (40 MPH + busiest area for tourists, no proper crossings) and all current, past and future developers, hotel owners, condo owners, restaurants and other businesses and residents and tourists would benefit from the solution you propose above – or something similar, which solves the entire WBR problem. 

  8. Len Layman says:

    Ray,

    Very good observations and ideas.  I think you will findthat most of the individuals, like me,who are against the closure of West Bay Rd. are not against the new extension into West Bay.  The plan that has   been on the books for a long time has been for two roads.  This is a plan that makes sense and is in the best interest of the people of this island.  I have argued for years for the lowering of the speed limit on West Bay Road.  Once the current bypass was in place there was no reason not to lower the speed limit, and it could be argued that the failure to do so has cost lives.

    I can relate to your vision of a slow scenic route into West Bay.  One that uses the current West Bay Rd corridor but is changed to a pleasant controlled drive that is safe for both the vehicles using it and those having to cross it. Picture this with a jogging path and bike path.  This all while maintaining the people’s right to this stretch of scenic road. The new bypass would provide the “fast lane” option for those in a hurry, while those who choose can continue to use the redone old West Bay Rd.  This also would maintain our current beach access as is.

    You are right, we have a chance to maintain and improve the current West Bay Rd. corridor.  Enhancing, our overall tourist product, while improving the life for the people of the Cayman Islands. 

    We must put quality of life ahead of the gain of the developers.   If we do so it can be a win/win situation for all, not just the moneyed developers and the politicians.

    • Miguel says:

      I do agree with most of what Ray is saying but I think Len and Ray missed a key point which I been pointing out from the time I saw the road plans.

      As we all know the WBR section by Coutts will be diverted to join the ETH, this is the week point in this proposal as Ray mentioned the ETH is 40MPH and the WBR will be 25MPH then if you are travelling on the slow speed and you want to continue on the slow speed, you will not be able to do so at this point because you will be going the 40MPH road.

      I think that we should be able to have a choice either to continue at the same speed or to join the other road.

      In other words divert the existing road as planned but before you reach to the ETH have a green area between the two roads and if you chose to continue at 25MPH you can do so by continuing on your left and if you chose to join the ETH then you can do so by going to the roundabout that are planned at this point.

      So what I am saying is that they way its planed at this point there will only be one road and the way I think it should work is that the WBR continue separately from the ETH with a small green area between the two.

      This way we will have two separate roads to WB.

      • Len Layman says:

        Miquel,  We are all in agreement what ray is saying and I an saying is the the current road should remain.  Then we would have the option of the 40 mph by pass or the slower scenic route on the current WBR..  For this to happen the proposed closing of the road has to be stopped.

        • Anonymous says:

          Len, As presumably a local west bay resident how can you suggest with a straight face that those who wish to speed will take a different route. Were you smiling when you wrote that for the cruise shippers? We all know the hot rodders will always take WBR until it is thankfully closed, then you will see lives saved. The visitors who cross the street will also be safer.

          • Len Layman says:

            You are envisioning the road as it is today.  Properly designed and engineered, it could be done, and done is such a way that anyone in a hurry would have to take ETH.   We need to approaching these things with vision and a "can do" attitude and stop accepting the pablum being marketed to us by the developer and government as The Lord's Supper.

            Money may give them power but it does not always make them right.

            P.S. My respect to those who feel strongly enough about their opinions and ideas to put there name on their posts.  This applies to those who I both agree and disagree with.  The right of free speech must be used to make it strong and we need to strengthen that right in Cayman.  So speak up please!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree with your views Ray. It’s encouraging to see that someone is looking at development from a macro, as opposed to micro, perspective. Good planning is all about looking at the big picture. Another opportunity that may pass us by is the oppurtunity to redevelop George Town waterfront into a vibrantthriving hub of daytime and nighttime activity, rather than the slowly dying ghost town that’s it’s becoming. This is what CIG should be looking at, rather than begging the Chinese fir cheap money to just stick two finger piers on the dock. We in fact do need to take a serious high level look at how best to develop Cayman. Right now it is quite chaotic, with large developments being developed here and there without adequate consideration for the direct and indirect impact on infrastructure. Our development plan is woefully inadequate, our law is based on 1948 legislation and our planning board and department simply does not have the skill set to ensure that Cayman develops the way it should. We hear a lot about “sustainable development” these days, mostly from the DoE, (who are patently anti development, even though they have a ” Sustainable Development Division” ) but no one really seems to know what that means. To me it means planning and building for today in a way that does not adversely impact tomorrow. The only way to do this is to create a real master plan with the necessary modern legislative framework for the entire three islands, not just a zoning map for one island, with regulations being made and adjusted on an ad hoc basis, as we have now. This is the only way to ensure that development is sensible and sustainable and is forward looking, which is what planning is all about, isn’t it? It can’t be that hard to do, given the small size of our three little islands.
    Kudos to you Ray, for thinking outside the box and having the nerve to share your views, despite the fact that it might attract the typical reactive vitriol that we see all too often on here.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Dream on. Government won't even put pedestrian crossings on WBR.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      Sorry anonymous you have no clue. Ray, thanks for putting things into perpective in a well thought out article. You are dead right and above all you are familiar with what has taken place on West Bay Road for many years. I fully support your logic and conclusions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Correction, some government in the past did install pedestrian crossings on the West Bay Rd. I suppose I would be more accurate by saying that public works or the roads authority installed those crossings and pedestrian islands as part of the proper road design for a road travelling through a high pedestrian area. I believe what happened after that was that voters lobbied vociferously for the right to travel down the centre lane without the obstruction of the pedestrian islands so some government (perhaps the same one) saw to it that they were removed and yet another positive step forward was erased. This happens over and over in the Cayman Islands because our people have no desire to change due to a false sense of success or they do not have the discipline to maintain positive changes and our leaders are too fickle or engrossed in self interest to lead sustained positive change.  

  11. R.M. says:

    Yours is just all talk. This is never going to happen. Look at how much the Opposition and PPM is against the McKeeva-Dart deal. They hate McKeeva and hence everything that has McKeeva in it, is bad for Cayman. So they oppose the McKeeva-Dart deal on the dump as well. What next?  Keep dreaming Ray. Just watch and see when you hear the UK ministers say the deal is corrupt and Cayman is still behind.

    • Anonymous says:

      its happening… for any future government to try and go back on this would be the death knell for the cayman islands….

      • Anonymous says:

        The article is to stimulate thought not about a future Govt. going back on an agreement. It is saying to THINK about all options before jumping on the first one proposed. This should apply to every proposal. Once an option/agreement is taken other opportunities are ruled out. So you should be thinking about the long term benefits to you, your family, your country. Would another choice provide more? Would another choice provide more longer term benefits?

      • Anonymous says:

        Why do you think that? Explain what you mean.

    • Anonymous says:

      You know, I am so sick and tired of hearing about the battle between the UDP and PPM.  The plight of the Cayman Islands and Caymanians has been lost in this battle.  What is going to happen when we, the Caymanian population have reached the point in this battle, when we will no longer be able to even beg for assistance to feed our families.  I have reached a stage where I have an invalid mother and a handicapped daughter.  They each takea ton of medication daily and with a pension of 600.00 per month, I have to resort to begging for private assistance to help me buy enough food to keep them in some semblance of health and prolong their life, especially my daughter who has been smitten with MS for almost 10 years now.  Every month, I thank Foster's Food Fair for their special on meats – Pick 5 for 19.99.  The meats are not top class, but with the proper seasonings and care in preparation, they, at least, get a nutritious meal.  Fortunately, they both like chicken, but I have already mastered the art of preparing the same meat each week in different meals.  My daughter said yesterday that she never knows how her dinner is going to be prepared, but it always tastes good.  They are both very fond of turtle stew, but it has been over 2 years that we have not had that, because it is too expensive for people like me to buy and you certainly cannot afford to go to restaurants to eat it. 

      It is more than time enough for the UK to do something to enforce good governance in our little islands.  While the politicians are waging their war, the poor people are starving and we wonder why there is an increase in robberies and burglaries.  We are paying for putting a dictator in power and it seems that unless severe measures are taken, we will become the newest "Banana Republic" and the real Caymanians are lost.  Did anyone read what our "dicktator" said about continuing negotiations with CHEC?  He has already appointed himself ruler of the republic and unless he is forced out of power, the Cayman Islands will lose our status as a preferred Tourist destination.  Does any of you remember what caused the variation of "Candle in the Wind" — "Scandal in the Wind".  He also got on the radio and swore that his heart was pure and his hands are clean and we all know that was not the case then either.

      WAKE UP CAYMANIANS AND SMELL THE SULPHUR BEFORE McCHAVEZ DRAGS US ALL DOWN INTO HELL!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Your posting doesn't make sense, what do you mean? No one is talking about the PPM or the UDP, except you!