Road compromise reached

| 28/04/2014

(CNS): Government and the National Trust have reached an agreement on the route of the east-west arterial extension to Frank Sound which limits the encroachment on the Trust’s land. The extension, if it happens, will be financed by developers proposing a $360 million resort in the area, including a golf course, which they say is not viable without the road. Investors behind Ironwood will raise the $40 million for the road, which, according to the revised route, now avoids most of the Trust’s critical habitat and will recoup the cash via duty and other concessions over the life of the project. The whole plan is still contingent, however, on the approval of the UK as a result of the financing element and the need for CIG to comply with the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility agreement..

Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the new route at a press briefing on Monday alongside representatives from the Trust, the minister responsible for roads, Kurt Tibbetts, and NRA Director Ed Howard.

“There have been concerns about route but we have managed to reach an agreement that everyone is happy with,” the premier said, adding that the developer was also comfortable with the proposed redirection south in order to preserve important wetlands.

The Mastic Trail itself will now also be diverted at the southern head, and although the Trust will lose around three acres, government has agreed to hand over a similar amount of crown land in the area as compensation. Members of the Trust described the negotiations over the re-routing of the road as historic as it was the first time that government has sat down with the local conservation charity and listened to its concerns and recognized the importance of doing what it can to conserve important land and eco-systems.

McLaughlin said government had talked to the Trust about reviewing the planned route on to East End to avoid the wilderness reserve and the Salinas — critical habitat for the blue iguanas being released in the area from the Trust’s contained breeding programme in an effort to save the iconic, endemic species.

Although there are no plans for government to continue with the road east past Frank Sound anytime soon, the negotiations with the Trust included proposals to reroute that part of the road as well to allay concerns that the clock was ticking on the blue iguana release programme.

Any kind of major development, particularly so close to the Botanic Park and in what remains of Cayman’s dwindling natural habitat supporting the islands’ endangered endemic flora and fauna, is an on-going battle for the Trust and other conservationist. However, on this occasion the Trust was pleased and relieved that it was able to persuade government of the importance of the habitat the road would have threatened without the redirection.

“We are pleased government has listened to our concerns and we have noted that this administration has been supportive of the Trust,”Christina Pineda, the Trust’s Executive Director, said. “We were concerned that the road would cut through wetlands which feed dry forest in the area but we have been able to avoid it.”

She said the talks between government and the trust had proved to be a real success.

“It will protect integrity of the Mastic Reserve and it minimizes the losses in Trust land,” Pineda added.  “It is heartening to know that government sees the value of the National Trust preserving land and the developer has also made commitments to us to help develop a proper trail head,” she said as she thanked government for working with the NGO so closely and including it in the negotiations, which she said was an important step forward.

She explained that the land that the Trust is giving up was not inalienable and is part of the trail which leads into the Mastic Reserve and not such sensitive habitat.

Patricia Bradley from the National Trust Council pointed out the historical significance of the negotiations as this simply has not happened before. She described it as a very important move, not just because the discussions had resulted in the preservation of important habitat regarding the immediate plans but also any future, further extension. Bradley said it was “marvelous that we can now talk and explain why things are important instead of just being presented with what is happening.”

Explaining the importance of the land that has now been preserved, the Trust representatives said the wetlands and mangrove “acts like a blanket around the dry forest”, feeding it with water and creating the sensitively balanced eco-system in the actual reserve. Without the wetlands there would be no dry forest and had the road not been re-routed it “could have been devastating to that habitat”.

Kurt Tibbetts said his ministry and the NRA understood the difficulties with the original gazetted road so it was “a matter of sitting down and determining the best way and usually there is a way if we are willing to listen.” He said the NRA had worked closely with the Trust and several maps were drawn up until the one which appears to have the best result all round emerged.

The road has now been dropped well south of the wetland area, and although it is close to a subdivision, the road director said the right engineering can take care of any issues arising from that.

Now that the last part of the road route has been sorted out with the Trust, government is not anticipating many problems regarding the land along the rest of the route. Most owners will not need to be compensated as the road will enhance the value of their land in most cases. However, both the premier and Tibbetts explained that there was still some way to go before the road project begins.

The developers of the proposed Ironwood project are the ones who will be raising the cash and hoping to recoup around $25 million from duty and the rest from other possible concessions from government over the next twenty years.

While this loan will not be guaranteed by government, the money which would have gone to the public purse via duty will now be used to finance the loan. Any partnership the government enters into with the developer over the construction of the public road will need to fit within the parameters of the FFR and get the UK’s approval. With the route decided, Tibbetts said government could now begin to shape a plan to present to the UK to get that approval.

If the Foreign Office offers its support, it will then depend on the viability of and the investment that the proposed project, including the Arnold Palmer 18-hole golf course, can attract as to whether or not the developer will take on and complete the road project.

See the new route (blue) for the east-west arterial and the letter to the Trust from the government confirming its commitment to the changes.

Category: Science and Nature

Comments (42)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Years ago… 50's and 60's in BC Canada the then Minister of Highways made the plans as to where all the major roads would go and when and which towns they would connect. 

    I always wondered why in every small town in BC there is a Sandman Inn on the busiest crossroads. Seems he bought the land before the roads were announced. 

    The family did quite well. His grandson is not only the president of Sandman inn's he also owns the Dallas Stars. Not bad a bad legacy for an elected official.

    Just trivia, I am sure there is no revelance.

    • And Another Ting says:

      Pardon but isn't this all backfumus. Shouldn't the  Crown approve the duty concession before this hurrahing. Or is it that this is gonna be a concession to the Premier for taking out the UDP.

  2. 4Cayman says:

    Now that a compromise has been met, when are land owners of the last  bypass going to be paid? Also who is going to be pay for the new land acquisitions, the developer or government? If government where's the funds going to come from  considering of the once again concessions? 

    Fuel, groceries and duties to the average joe can't go any higher!

    • R. U. Kidden says:

      "Fuel, groceries and dutiesto the average joe can't go any higher!"   Are you serious, Mr.4Cayman?  You ain't  seen nothin' yet.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I just hjope we don't get the same false promises from this group as we got with DART.  The public Beach is an eye sore…

    • Anonymous says:

      Ask yourself whose fault it is that the project has not yet been allowed to be completed.

    • Anonymous says:

      That's because it's not finished. Why is that?

    • Anonymous says:

      That's becuase the new government backup out of a signed contract and reniged on the deal he made with the CIG, Why should eh do anything else when they are not holding up thier end of the deal..

    • Anonymous says:

      What part of that beach is an eye sore? it's lovely… just need to get the next phase going, as soon as the Gov can come to some understanding with Mr. Dart. I see a foot ball field is there today…wonderful! now the kids have a place they can play.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Why are politicians negotiating with developers? Did we not learn our lessons from Mac's FCIA and Foolio's CHEC "negotiations" in the last administration?

    There should be professional negotiators at the table and some independence introduced. PPM making the same mistakes as UDP.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because professional negotiators would take one look and say there is nothing to negotiate. Only government would negotiate with a developer who has a string of foreclosures in their recent past.

  5. pmilburn says:

    This is a fair decision by all three parties and this will certainly bode well for Northern/Eastern development.I have said for many years that Golf Tourism is a good thing for this country as Golfers are big spenders BUT please make sure that the golf course design and finished product is VERY environmentally friendly as is the case now in many countries.No shortcuts PLEASE in this respect.

    • R. U. Kidden says:

      Mr. pmiburn I hope you aren't offended but I think you are wrong in thinking we will get much golf tourism from this grandious scheme.  The Caymans are not situated well to attract golfers.  Divers yes, because we have some of the premier dive sites in the world.   A golf course out in the boonies won't be as nice as most of the good golf courses, and it will be much too warm for most golfers.  It will not do much for employment, either.  How many employees does it take to operate a golf course with few golfers?  I think it is also ridiculous to build a road that goes nowhere but a place to play golf.  If we needed a road across there, it should have been built first and then if some golf resort or other resort wanted to locate on it, let them build on it.  I don't like the idea of our glorious government building a road specifically for a particular business.  That isn't the way the public money should be used.

      • pmilburn says:

        Not offended at all.You make a couple of good points BUT I will stick to my thinking that we could become a good golfing destination in time and if indeed Arnold Palmers name is on the designers plans then that will certainly bode well for those folks who know how big a draw golf courses can be with a BIG name behing it.Hope I am correct and you are wrong(no offence)

    • And Another Ting says:

      Hahajahajatehahaja

  6. The Prophet Ebanks says:

    There will be no golf course. There will be half a road. 

  7. Foreign Devil says:

    This road will supply easy acess to the new centrally located Waste Management Facility in BTown, perfect.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am happy they were able to come to a compromise on the route of the road, because I believe it is a needed upgrade to Caymans infrastructure, I also think that Ironwood is great for Cayman. However I don’t like the deal they made with the developer to build the road which will leave Cayman not collecting a penny in Duty income until it’s all paid back in full. Alden is trying to advertise this as better than the deal made with Dart but that deal only gave him a 50 Percent concession on Occupancy Taxes, so he will still be paying duty and the CIG will still be getting revenue while they’re building the hotel. And once it’s done the CIG will still be getting 50 percent of the room tax, not giving it all up. It will also take them decades to recoup their money. The CIG needs to negotiate a deal with the Ironwood developers that doesn’tequal to Cayman giving up all their revenue to pay them back. Whoever negotiated this deal had no skills at the negotiating table, it sounds to me like they just said yes man.

    • Fact Checker says:

      Nice try. Now let's objectively review and fact check your comment, which is completely off base.

      The 50% rebate on room tax wasn't the only concession Dart got for building the Esterly Tibbetts Highway extension. And, according to the agreement, he certainly wasn't expected to pay duty while building the hotel or road, which is what you have claimed. The full deal is available here for reference: http://centos6-httpd22-php56-mysql55.installer.magneticone.com/o_belozerov/31115drupal622/politics/2012/07/09/dart-take-50-taxes.

      To summarise, Dart was to get the following concessions: (1) 50% rebate on tourism taxes for 10 years on the Kimpton and also on tourism taxes for the first 10 years for any other hotels he bought, built or renovated within the next 30 years; (2) 100% waiver of import duties and development fees to construct the Kimpton; (3) a reduction on various development fees, stamp duties and import duties up to a maximum of US$24 million; (4) incentives for Caymanian buyers of Camana Bay properties by reducing the stamp duty payable; and (5) 100% waiver of import duties and development fees for any "public infrastructure" developed or constructed by Dart over the next 30 years (i.e. including the road and other projects like the public beach that were already planned or as yet to be conceived).

      That's a lot more than the $24 million import duty concession that is expected to be given to Ironwood. And we haven't even gotten into the increase in value of Dart's properties from the planned road closure as a benefit in their column.

      That being said, we must also recognise that in addition to building the highway extension Dart was also meant to give government a straight US$5 million in cash for earmarked projects and fully redevelop the public beach on West Bay Road. However, that is still by any account a WAY BETTER DEAL than Ironwood got and included many more concessions than you claim.

      The Ironwood deal is not comparable to the complex mix of promises and concessions in the For Cayman Investment Alliance between government and Dart, which is what you have attempted to do. It is much more simple and essentially it means government will be paying for the road, just not up front.

      Instead of government spending $25 million to build the road over the next two years or so, Ironwood will build the road for government and then recoup the $25 million cost by not paying import duties that would have been due to government while they develop their project. Ironwood doesn't end up out of pocket in the end and their incentive is they want the road built. Government doesn't have the capital to build the road and can't borrow to fund it, but they want it built and this is a way to do it without being out of pocket either (since the developer wouldn't develop without the road). Government is essentially "borrowing" against future earnings (i.e. the import duties).

      This could have been a catch 22 where government couldn't build the road because they didn't have the money and Ironwood could have given government the money through development but couldn't develop because they didn't have the road. Instead, what is proposed is an alternative financing arrangement that is much more similar to a loan and where everyone could end up happy.

      • Anonymous says:

        PPM bloggers hard at work

      • Anonymous says:

        You are truly blind if you believe what you are saying, you forget to mention that for Dart to get all of those concessions he would've had to invest a billion dollars into cayman over the next 2 decades..Which included paying for the capping GT dump and building a new facility in BT at no cost to the public purse. As well as the ongoing cost a maintaining the GT site which would cost millions of dollars every year. 

         

    • Anonymous says:

      Finally someone that can see and talk it how it is. You have people comenting that know nothing basically saying this deal is better than the one Makeeva made with dart for the hotel. PPMhas done nothing for Cayman thus far other than travel and tell lies whenever they are speaking publicly. UDP was not good for the country but they did a heck of a lot more in the same period of time PPM has been in office. The deficit we are in is fault of PPM splurging money on gov building, roads, the governement vehicles etc. PPM bought when they thought they were getting into office again. The previous governement (UDP) managed to not get us any further in debt but still could not solve the deficit PPM caused nor will PPM be able to do so this term. Even worst Alden says that there are a lot of front line position within goverment that cant be filled due to the goverment not having funds to compensate these people. Does this not let you know that maybe the government cannot afford the amount of civil servants it has, and maybe its time to cut the size of the civil service? You would think that such a smart and educated premier would know this, but it seems he doesn't or maybe he buys most of his votes from the civil service. It just doent make sense to not cut the size. Too many people in government are being paid for doing nothing.

      • Fred the Piemaker says:

        Absolutely right  – there are people commenting that know nothing 😉

        You wouldn't be The Jordanian by any chance?  Seems to be a certain similarity in grammar, phrasing and ideology….

    • Anonymous says:

      Ofcourse they said yes.  This is the only thing they have done in the last year or so.

      Cruise Port – Soon Come

      Waste Management Facility – Can we call Dart to revisit this? We really cant afford to not do this. Wait.  What about the votes? Oh yeah. Forget it then………..

      Shetty Hospital – Sure lucked out on that one. We get to look like we had some foresight.  Yes. I knew this would work all along.

      Kimpton Hotel – Ignore this. Makes us look bad.

      Esterly Tibbetts Extension – Same as above. Ignore. 

       

      And that folks sums up the past year in Cayman politics.

    • Anonymous says:

      So true yet another reason why politicians should not lead negotiations with developers because the people of Cayman get stuck picking up the tab. This is not an equitable deal for a government that is broke.

  9. O says:

    So we invest in a golf course … who is going to get the monies?

    • Knot S Smart says:

      You invest and I get the money…

    • Anonymous says:

      We meaning who, this is a private venture, you aren't investing into anything…that's the problem with a lot of people that think they own everything in cayman without putting a penny up.

    • Anonymous says:

      how are you investing into a golf course?

  10. Knot S Smart says:

    This is positive news…

  11. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if the design plans open up access for the Premier and Minister of Roads family lands and how much that increases its values?

     

    • Anonymous says:

      The Premier alread noted that his family's parcel of land already has 1100 feet of road frontage on Frank Sound Road.  Since it is not a landlocked parcel it is hard to imagine how this road will significantly change the parcel's value.

      Of course the extension of the East West Arterial was gazetted long before these politicians took office. 

      • Anonymous says:

        It will now be a hugh corner property perfect commercial land, the value will be greatlt increased and they know it,  you do to. But just like them they want to avoid the question. Not saying that they did anything crooked but they are gaining something from the deal..

         

    • Anonymous says:

      I would hope it does open up their land and increase their property value! why not! you are saying they dont deserve to gain and enjoy from the development of their country of birth?

      • Anonymous says:

        Using public office to gain a personal benefit is prohibited under the Anti-Corruption legislation. It is hypocritical of the PPM to do considering they campaigned against UDP as corrupt and abusing their powers whilst in office.

        All conflicts of interests must be disclosed. New government but "Same dog puppy bobo!"

        • R. U. Kidden says:

          "All conflicts of interests must be disclosed."

          If there were an award for the most riduculous statement for the month of April, this would surely win.

      • Anonymous says:

        Very well stated to one of our future Government hopefulls looking to profit from our suffering..

    • Anonymous says:

      The East West Arterial was gazetted before the first ppm governement took office in 2005, which was also stated by the current governement in a press briefing. Neither the minister or the premier are looking to gain from this. The Premier already said that his fathers parcel of land already has road frontage on frank sound main road, its kinda hard to see as how the value will go up with that. My guess isthat you have nothing else to do but talk without having the facts straight. 

  12. Ostiopilus says:

    Well done National Trust and well done Kurt. You have done the right thing. Now just make sure the developer comes through and this isn’t just a scheme to dig holes and chip rock. Like that disgraceful operation going on out front of Health City. Arden and Ezzard quiet as little mice on that one.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ezzard and Arden quiet as little mice… Specialists in Failure …. Voyeurs… Nothing sensible will comefrom either.

  13. GR says:

    Good news idea!