CPA hears quarry objections

| 02/10/2008

(CNS): UPDATED — The Central Planning Authority (CPA) yesterday heard Lorenzo Berry’s White Rock Investments planning application for his excavation project in the Lower Valley Forest and also heard from numerous objectors to the application. The residents of Mahogany Estates, who have been severely impacted by Berry’s illegal operation for many years, as well as four members of the Berry family with a claim on the land, raised various objections.

While CPA chair Dalkeith Bothwell made no initial objection to the attendance of the media at the Wednesday, 1 October, planning meeting, he said, in the spirit of Freedom of Information, an objection from Samuel Jackson, Berry’s lawyer, suggested it was not normal practice to conduct planning meetings in the presence of the press and as they had not been informed the media was present, he wanted them removed.

“We want to know who is in the room and if they fall outside of the 1500 feet objection they have no business being here,” said Jackson. “We expected the usual rules of planning procedure.”  The lawyer said that the issue had already turned into a media circus and that they were all there to deal with a salient planning application which should follow the normal procedure.

Before being removed, CNS heard Murali Ram, who is acting for four members of the Berry family who have a claim on the land, which was originally owned by their grandfather, Thomas Berry. He stated that Lorenzo Berry’s right to excavate the property as White Rock Investments was in legal dispute and that Planning would be wise to take legal advice before granting Berry official planning permission to quarry and level land that was not solely owned by him. Currently Berry is listed as the administrator of the land and by no means the only benefactor or claimants to it.

Bothwell also indicated that the CPA had a number of objections in writing but said those present who wanted to speak against the application would be allowed to do so. Developers of the planned luxury Beach Bay resort were also there, and while they offered no official comment, another Beach Bay strata representative asked to speak his objection on the strata’s behalf.

After the meeting neither Stafford Berry nor attorney Samuel Jackson would comment on the hearing on behalf of the applicant. However, Reverend Nicholas Sykes and Jean Ebanks, residents of Mahogany Estates, spoke about the meeting events and said while they believed they had presented a good case without the benefit of legal representation, Berry’s lawyer had done his best to ridicule their valid objections.

“I believe we made our points adequately,” said Sykes. “However, the outcome remains in their hands, but we believe at the very least the legal dispute within the Berry family over ownership should delay any further excavation.”

Ebanks said she was very concerned about how Berry’s lawyer had simply dismissed the objections submitted by the Department of the Environment. She said Jackson had told the CPA it should not even look at the objection as the DoE had absolutely no legal standing, as there was no environmental law in Cayman.

“We believe, however, regardless of his belittling the environmental objections, members of the Planning Authority are more intelligent than that and they will consider the comprehensive objections submitted by the DoE and ourselves,” she said.  Indeed, Kenneth Ebanks, the Director of Planning, recently attended a climate change conference and said that Cayman needed to improve its environmental protection legislation. The residents expressed concerns too over what could prove to be a massaging of objections. Ebanks said that while Jackson stated that the applicant’s poll had claimed 53% support within the 1500-foot radius of the development, their objectors’ list suggested that could not be possible.

They were also concerned that while residents on the estate have made numerous complaints to the police regarding the threats made by Berry, some family members and employees, Jackson read a letter which he claimed was from a senior police officer at Bodden Town Police station stating that there were no complaints against Mr Berry. All the residents, however, vehemently disagree and state that even their MLA, Osbourne Bodden, has made complaints to the police on their behalf. CNS contacted the RCIPS which confirmed that there was indeed a record of  a number of complaints from all parties invovled in the dispute regarding Mahogany estates.

Residents now have to wait to hear the outcome of the hearing as Bothwell said it would be a few days before the CPA would make its decision.

 

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Well done CNS for all your good reporting on this important issue!!!

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Well done CPA for turning down the Berry’s application for further quarrying! The residents of Mahogany Estates, kudos on your persevarance in getting this matter dealt with finally!