Extent of quarrying revealed

| 26/08/2008

(CNS): Even if Whiterock Investments is refused planning permission to continue quarrying in the Beach Bay area, the damage to the bluff by earlier excavation and blasting could be irreversible. The residents of Mahogany Estates have released photographs (left) of the site revealing the extensive damage already done to the bluff by the developer Lorenzo Berry.

The pictures show the depth of the excavation and the size of the crater that Berry has already removed, and it is his intention to do the same to the rest of the 44-acre plot which he owns, should he be granted planning permission to legalise an operation that the residents say he has continued illegally on and off for more than a decade.

Since going public with their plight, Jean Ebanks, one of the local residents on the estate, says that they have received a great deal of interest and support from the wider Caymanian community who are shocked by what has been allowed to happen. However, she and her fellow residents are still dismayed by how government is failing to act over what has gone on in their neighbourhood. In particular she thinks that the National Roads Authority’s (NRA) use of fill from the illegal quarrying should not just be dismissed.

“The NRA’s comment that they only bought $15,000 worth of fill and that ‘it’s a drop in the ocean’ gives the impression that it’s okay because it was only a ‘small’ amount,” she told CNS. “The truth is that the fill was quarried illegally and it was therefore illegal for government to buy the fill.  If government does not have the necessary controls in place to stop any type of illegal activity, it is encouraging people to break the law.”

She pointed out that anyone who steals $100 from their employer is no less a thief than the person who steals $1M from his employer and warned that government should be careful to ensure that they are not encouraging people to commit illegal acts because they do not have the procedures, funds or manpower to enforce laws. “If people know there are no consequences then why should they stop?” she asked.

The NRA recently admittedthat they had used the illegally quarried fill but stopped doing business with Berry’s company when what they described as the dubious nature of the fill was revealed. Ebanks and the other residents however believe that because there have been no sanctions against anyone involved in the purchase or Berry’s continued operation regardless of requests by the Planning Department to stop, this makes a mockery of the law.

The residents also continue to be concerned about the land which is now locked because of the huge crater which has been created by Berry’s excavation. At least four sold plots are now inaccessible because of the quarry and as far as Ebanks is aware no compensation has been offered to these landowners. “These lots are now completely landlocked and the owners will not be able to sell the land. Even if they are given back their original investment, that will no longer be enough for them to buy an equivalent plot,” explained Ebanks.

CNS has learned from sources close to the developer that Berry intends to level the 44-acre site to extract what is estimated to be more than $100 million worth of fill. Once the land is reduced to some five feet above sea level there are plans to create a residential canal subdivision.

One of the many concerns of the existing Mahogany Estates residents is that if the bluff were allowed to be levelled to this extent the flooding in the area during storms would be extensive, not just in their immediate vicinity but across the entire Beach Bay neighbourhood. This includes a number of other residential communities which have until now enjoyed the protection of the bluff from high seas and storm surge during bad weather.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I think this is absolutely disgraceful! The legal department should look into the illegal quarrying activities of Mr Berry’s company, assess how much profit he has made and have him and his company disgorge those profits.  Surely that would be welcome revenue for the government.  In addition Mr. Berry and those concerned should face whatever additional fines and penalties are applicable.  I can’t express how disgusted I am with Mr. Berry’s blatant disregard for the law and government regulations.  I certainly hope our government will take a stand against such behaviour and that Planning denies Mr Berry’s current application. I will certainly be writing to my MLA and I urge other like-minded individuals concerned about Cayman’s environment, Cayman’s people and the rule of law to do the same.

    A very shocked and disgusted Caymanian