Archive for January 23rd, 2010

Geology expert explains Cayman’s sinkholes

Geology expert explains Cayman’s sinkholes

| 23/01/2010 | 21 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Cayman earthquake, sinkholes, Professor Brian Jones(CNS): Brian Jones, the  Professor of Geology at the University of Alberta who has been doing research on the geology of the Cayman Islands since 1981, has told CNS that there are numerous  caves and caverns on the Cayman Islands, both above and below sea level, that can account for the sinkhole that appeared in the wake of the recent earthquake. Although Cayman is in an area susceptible to earth tremors, Professor Jones also says that in general the seismic events affecting the islands are usually very deep and, coupled with our strong infrastructure the islands, are less likely to suffer major damage.

The professor explained that over the last 30 million years or so the Cayman Islands have evolved as sea level has risen and fallen.  When sea level rises, the island is submerged and deposition of sediments take place; when sea level falls, the island is exposed to the atmosphere and weathering takes place.  The rocks on the Cayman Islands are limestone, formed of calcite (CaCO3) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2).  “When exposed to rainwater, these minerals will slowly dissolve – both at the surface and below the surface.  Surface dissolution produces the rugged terrain seen over much of the islands, whereas dissolution below the surface produces caves and widens fractures,” Prof Jones added.

He explained that there are numerous caves here and plenty of evidence of them, not only from the caves above sea level that we can access on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, but when drilling the bit commonly drops through large caves, some as much as 350 feet below sea level.  “There is considerable evidence that there are numerous caves throughout the rocks of the islands.  Similarly, there are numerous fractures throughout the islands that have been widened by dissolution caused by the action of rain water,” Prof Jones said.

When an earthquake hits, the vibrations cause any weak parts of the rocks to move and even collapse, which means the rocks above a cave or cavity may collapse down and the surface manifestation of that collapse will be a sinkhole.

However, Jones said the area in South Sound, where the large sinkhole was well documented and smaller holes were reportedly sighted, is, from  a geological perspective, poorly known – largely because it is built up and there is little rock exposed at the surface.  “It is difficult to gain first hand knowledge of the rocks in that area,” he noted. “From what I have been able to see, it appears that the surface deposits are either peat and swamp deposits, formed in the mangroves, or limestone that belong to the Ironshore Formation.”

Most of the rocks seen at the surface of this formation will probably be about 125,000 years old, the professor said.  “These rocks overlay dolostones that belong to the Pedro Castle Formation and/or the CaymanFormation.  The former is 2-5 million years old, whereas the latter is about 12 million years old in its upper part.  Caves, if present, will primarily be in these formations, and if some of those caves collapsed, then sinkholes would be produced.”

Asked about the reports of the smaller holes that appeared to give off a sulphur smell and be bubbling along the South Sound seashore, he said that without seeing them he could not be absolutely sure but suspected that the tremors had caused the loose sediments to move in such a way that gases trapped in the subsurface were released.  “If you shake water-saturated sands, they become, in effect, quick-sands.  As the gas bubbles escape, they will create small holes,” he explained.

Despite the ups and downs of Cayman’s geology, however, Prof Jones said residents in Cayman need not be alarmed about the ‘holey’ ground on which they walk as most of the earthquakes that hit the Cayman Islands have a fairly deep point of origin. He acknowledged that, given what had happened in Haiti, it was not surprising, but the circumstances were very different because of the severity and shallowness of that earthquake. 

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Major Cayman land owner admits financial turmoil

Major Cayman land owner admits financial turmoil

| 23/01/2010 | 13 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Cayman Real Estate(CNS): Stan Thomas, the man who owns more than 300 acres of prime real estate along West Bay Road from the Yacht Club to Morgan’s Harbour, has revealed the extent of his financial problems in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The owner of the now closed Courtyard Marriott and the man who once had extensive plans for developing his land in the Cayman Islands says that before the economic crash he took borrowing for granted.  “I took it for granted you’d always be able to borrow money. Maybe at 18 to 20 percent like the 1970s, but that I’d always be able to borrow money. I’ll never take it for granted it again,” he told AJC.

Although he says he had an inkling of the coming meltdown in 2006 when some people pulled out of an Orlando project at the time Thomas says he attributed it to the effect of a bad hurricane season.

In the piece which reveals that at the end of last year Thomas, a long-time developer, put three major projects into bankruptcy protection he says he also narrowly averted foreclosure on one of his signature retail developments but is now pursuing foreign investors to bankroll his projects.

He hopes to salvage the three projects in bankruptcy, as well as those on hold and says he is changing his strategy, planning projects in “bite-sized bits” that are more easily financed. But his gut-level faith in real estate development — and his ability to mine gold from it — is unshaken. “I know how to make money and I will continue to work hard and do that,” Thomas said. “Everyone has always said, ‘Stan, you work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen.’ I’ve never asked anyone to work harder than I will.”

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Rollovergap to shrink

Rollovergap to shrink

| 23/01/2010 | 156 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Cayman immigration, Business Outlook Conference(CNS): Following the premier’s announcement that the government will be bringing changes in February to the Legislative Assembly concerning the Immigration Law, Sherri Bodden, chair of the Immigration Review team, has explained that the goal is to reduce the break in stay for expatriate workers to the minimum amount possible that will still be considered a genuine legal break. Six months is likely to be the shortest time-break that foreign workers can take in order to return to start from scratch and not be automatically entitled to citizenship after ten years.

Taking part in the panel debate, one of the highlights of this year’s Cayman Business Outlook conference, on Thursday, 21 January, Bodden explained that the goal was to try and make it easier for people to stay longer and retain their jobs and for employers to keep their best people without everyone getting access to Caymanian status. However, Bodden did say that there was also a need to create more Caymanians.

She said there had been a misunderstanding about rollover and some irresponsible politicians had led people to believe rollover was about throwing foreigners off the island in order to give jobs to Caymanians. “This is not so,” she said. “Rollover was introduced to ensure that we met the United Kingdom’s laws and conventions on nationality.”

She explained that by the time a third party resident is in a county for ten years, the European Convention on Nationality states they should get citizenship. Bodden noted that today there are 25,000 people on work permits and asked if, in a population of 52 thousand or so, could Cayman offer residency to all of them. She pointed out that only 9% of those are senior professional workers and more 35% are completely unskilled. “If we granted them all citizenship we will be obligated to pay their health pensions, schooling, and housing, everything that Caymanians are entitled to receive.”

Bodden explained that it had been determined that such an obligation would cripple the Cayman Islands and force government to create huge social welfare systems, and by implication a direct tax system to finance those obligations. However, she explained, to avoid that the country introduced a genuine break in stay in the period of residence, which was broadly agreed, both here and in the UK, would be the lesser of two evils.

The originalrollover gap of two years was reduced to one by the previous administration and Bodden said there was reason to believe, based on more recent legal advice, that it could be reduced further. If so, this could allow work permit holders to return after six months and start afresh without the obligation of having to grant residency, and by implication Caymanian status, as the gap still constituted a genuine break in stay.

Speaking to CNS, Bodden also explained that the number of years before rollover could also be increased almost to the ten if the process of permanent residency application could be made more efficient and allow more people the chance and time to apply. Then, if they are turned down before their ten year period is up, they could choose to take the six month break and still return to start again.

This shorter gap could prove helpful to those both at the top and bottom of the work permit spectrum. Six months is short enough to pay a favoured employee a retainer to maintain their employment, especially for helpers, domestic staff and other workers that are often a key and trusted part of local families that people do not want to lose.

Answering the question about offering the right to work without residency rights, Bodden explained it would create two classes of citizens, something which would be unlikely to find acceptance with the UK government. She also suggested that having a class of permanent residents that could never have the right to vote, own a business or access any of the benefits offered to other Caymanians would be a fundamental human rights problem.

Until the rollover is revamped and fine tuned to make it meet the demands of Cayman’s economy more effectively, Bodden confirmed that a list of positions, for the financial sector at least, has now been compiled. She said these roles would automatically be granted key status provided the employers complied with the law. The list would be allowed access to extended work permits of at least three years and those holding the positions would be entitled to apply for permanent residency once they pass eight years stay.

She emphasised, however, the posts only applied to the financial services industry and directly related support fields. The list includes all financial senior management posts, such as MDs, VPs and CEOs, partners, investment bankers, IT directors, insurance and reinsurance managers, as well as a number of less familiar positions, such as traders and brokers, jobs that government is hoping will be created here if the goal of attracting more elements of the financial services industry to the island is achieved.

Mandating certain key roles, Bodden explained, should address what may have been miscommunication problems between policy directives from government and then interpretation byboards. Once the key roles are mandated in law, the boards can simply pass the permits, creating a far more efficient system that the financial sector can trust.

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Victim reveals ordeal of armed home invasion

Victim reveals ordeal of armed home invasion

| 23/01/2010 | 12 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman local news, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Crime in Cayman(CNS): A woman who was one of three victims of an armed robbery that took place at a condo complex on Seven Mile Beach, West Bay Road two weeks ago has spoken out about her terrifying ordeal and says she and her room mates are scared to go out. Like most of the armed robberies that havetaken place on the island over the last six months, no one has been arrested for the robbery in which, the woman told News 27, she and her room mates were assaulted. According to the television station, the police say that they are still working actively on this investigation.

Speaking with Tammi Sulliman on News 27, the victim tells the harrowing details of how five men invaded her home and how she feared for her life as the men beat her male room mate on the head with a pistol. Although there were three cameras on the complex, none of them caught the armed robbers as they entered or fled the area, and she believes that there needs to be more heightened surveillance on the site and along the West Bay Road.

“It’s happening to everyone; it can’t stay quiet, hush-hush; don’t talk about it because people need to know it’s not safe here anymore,” the victim said.

According to the original police report, the event took place at the Treasure Island Condo at around 11:45 pm.

Go to News 27 video of interview

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Dart to create jobs with its next new building

Dart to create jobs with its next new building

| 23/01/2010 | 17 Comments

(CNS): Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd has announced plans to break ground in 2010 on a new, 100,000 square feet of mixed use Class AA Commercial Office and Retail development in Camana Bay. While the firm said that Decco was likely to be the general contractor most of the work will then be subcontracted to local firms creating as many as 200 trade jobs and ‘multiple opportunities for dozens of sub-contractors” Justin Howe, the VP Development for development told CNS. The company said the commitment to build comes at a time when the economic stimulus from it will be welcomed by the community.

“The Town of Camana Bay continues to grow and the decision to offer another substantial commercial and retail space is a reflection of the market response to our commercial and retail offering and our continued confidence in the Cayman economy.” said Mark VanDevelde, CEO Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd. “We believe that the timing of this announcement, and of this project, is good news not only for Camana Bay but also for the Cayman Islands as a project of this size will directly and indirectly generate jobs, create revenues and stimulate economic activity.”

Justin Howe, VP Development said Decco was  likely to be the construction manager for the building but that would entail subcontracting out the work to a number of third parties. “A project of this size involves some 200 tradesmen throughout the construction and under the construction management model, these jobs would be at the subcontractor level, not employed by Decco,” he added. “Almost all buildings at Camana Bay have been built under the construction management model, thereby creating multiple opportunities for dozens of subcontractors.”

This new office and retail space will be split between two buildings – north and south and will have on site, self contained parking for 375 cars. The development will be located on the plot between Forum Lane and Nexus Way.

It is anticipated that the first tenants of this new building will be moving in early in 2012, Dart said. The firm stated that the project design architect is the award-winning company Lake Flato, and the local architect is The Burns Conolly Group. Lake Flato’s overriding belief is that architecture should respond to its particular place, enhance a site or neighbourhood and be a natural partner with the environment.

Dart said it would be pursuing LEED certification and Lake Flato has 15 LEED accredited professionals on staff who have been a part of the design team. They will be advising and monitoring for the duration of the design and build process, the developers said. In addition to the LEED certification the developer said the buildings will be hurricane rated architecture; include state-of-the-art technology and ample parking; landscaped and have easy access to Camana Bay’s town centre’s shopping, dining and entertainment.

The new buildings are designed, and will continue to be developed, with flexibility in mind, Dart stated in a release, and will be able to provide a home for a business that desires 2,500 sq ft., a corporation that would like a space of 40,000+ sq ft. or retail establishments of varying sizes. The buildings will be mixed use with 10,000 sqft of retail at street level and the buildings’ other floors amounting to 87,000 sq ft will be dedicated to businesses.

Camana Bay is a mixed use master-planned community on 500 acres between Seven Mile Beach and the North Sound with shops, restaurants, offices, a six-screen cinema and 60 apartments which opened in December 2007. It was designed by the award-winning team of Moore Ruble Yudell and Olin Partnership. Following a design charrette held in 2008 with leading town planners and pioneers of New Urbanism -Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), Dart Realty is now in the master planning phase for the town’s residential communities, hotels, marina and amenities.

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