Activists seek legal redress
(CNS): Following two early successes in the courts by local campaigners against specific developments believed to be infringing on people’s rights, activists campaigning for the preservation of the West Bay Road are also examining possible legal action. A more than 4000-foot stretch of the road is facing imminent closure as part of the government’s proposed controversial investment deal with the Dart Group relating to a variety of projects that stretch from Barkers to Bodden Town. The group, which is a coalition of campaigners who have various concerns about elements of the deal which involves crown land and rights of access, said it is quietly confident that it can stop the closure of the road through the courts.
Truly4Cayman said this week that it was not giving up on its goal to preserve the highway, which has been used by Caymanians for more than 100 years. The group continues to actively pursue several avenues to prevent the closure and transfer of some 4,290 feet of the West Bay Road to Dart Realty. One of those avenues includes exploring the legal routes open to prevent the transfer as the road is crown land and belongs to the public.
“We are confident that there are legal options open to us to save this road, which has been in use as a public highway since 1908,” a spokesperson for Truly4Cayamn told CNS.
It is still not clear when government intends to sign the full deal with the islands’ largest investor regarding the West Bay Road projects and the proposal to relocate the landfill to Bodden Town.
Although government and the NRA signed a preliminary deal with Dart last December, which triggered the start of the Esterely Tibbetts Highway Extension towards West Bay, that deal has been reviewed by local consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers and has reportedly been re-negotiated. It is understood that the deal is now different from the agreement which was leaked to CNS earlier this year. See related story
The activists reiterated their position that they do not object to Dart completing the ETHE or developing the former Courtyard Marriott hotel but say this can be achieved without closing the West Bay Road.
“The highway extension has been gazetted for many years and we welcome its completion, which will give distinct advantages to the developer in its own right as it opens up much of his land improving its value and affording access. We object, however, to the closure of the West Bay road, which the ETH was meant to compliment not replace,” the group representative stated. “We also have very real concerns about future beach access and of course value for money for the public coffers. Giving the developer more than 4,200 feet of road is essentially converting his land to beach front property boosting its value many, many times over.”
The group also said it was aware that there are problems with the promised second public beach planned to the north of Dart’s property which may no longer form part of the deal.
Although progress continues on the ETH extension the public has not seen the revised NRA agreement nor has a date for the signing of the main proposal been set.
Given the size of the proposed deal, the involvement of public owned land, the diversion of taxes to the developer and the major concessions offered on the development that Dart has said it will undertake, the deal will need to meet the parameters of the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility which the premier signed in London last year with the UK. Many members of the wider public also believe that, given the significance of the proposed agreement, it should be placed in the public domain for scrutiny and consultation before government signs on the dotted line.
Dart to take 50% of taxes (9 July 2012)
Full Dart deal exposed (12 July 2012)
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