CPA chair behind controversial project

| 21/08/2016 | 104 Comments
Cayman News Service

Casa Luna

(CNS): The Central Planning Authority chairman has received planning permission for a controversial South Sound development that has raised a number of environmental concerns. Although Al Thompson recused himself from the 3 August CPA meeting, his Coriander development was granted planning permission by his deputy Bob Watler, according to the minutes of the meeting. The presentation was made to the CPA by a local architect but Thompson owns the company behind the project, which includes another controversial man-made beach along the coast of a marine park.

CNS has contacted Thompson to ask about his involvement as there have been concerns that the chair of the body that awards planning permission should not be placing his own multi-million-dollar development before his colleagues for approval, but we have received no response.

The $19.5 million project, situated close to Windsor Village on a 4.2 acre site along South Church Street, which has been presented to the CPA a number of times over the last fifteen years, was granted planning permission at the 3 August meeting. Thompson, who acquired the company sometime last year, according to company records seen by CNS, is proposing to build nineteen houses, all with pools, a clubhouse with a pool, a retaining wall and a boundary wall, as well as shoreline, a beach and seawall.

However, the project is not without controversy as the seawall at the southern portion of the site does not comply with the 50-foot setback, according to information supplied by the Department of Environment, leaving the houses vulnerable even “under relatively benign sea conditions”, the DoE stated in its recommendations.

Also of major concern is the proposed man-made beach.

A similar project at Casa Luna further along the same shoreline has proved to be extremely problematic, with sediment washing into the marine park. Concerned that the creation of another artificial beach in this location is unsustainable, the DoE said the sand will wash into the sea and need to be re-nourished, which means sand had to be sourced in an area with very little remaining beach.

“The issues surrounding this are most notable from the Casa Luna development on South Church Street, which resulted in chronic sedimentation in the Marine Park and resulted in numerous complaints from the public and watersports sectors,” the DoE warned, as it “strongly” recommended that if the CPA approved the application, it “should only be on the condition that the source of sand for the creation and maintenance of the beach is identified prior to approval and only … for a temporary period to allow for monitoring of run-off and sand washing into the Marine Park.”

The approval was granted before that was established, and while the minutes state it is contingent on this detail, it is not a temporary approval. In his presentation to the board, the architect, Mike Stroh, who appeared on behalf of Thompson, said that the DoE’s concerns regarding Casa Lunar were confined to the construction period and the beach is no longer a problem.

“There is no problem there now and it has been an absolute success,” he told the CPA.

But the DoE disagrees.

A spokesperson from the department said the sediment problem from Casa Luna continues and they are even more concerned about Coriander because the man-made beach will be even more vulnerable and will see the sand washed into the marine park. They also warned that with the set-back as narrow as just 27 feet in some cases on this project, the development is simply too close to the sea.

DoE experts warned that this is not the first time the CPA has approved a project that could see the properties undermined by the sea a few years after construction.

Following the implementation of the National Conservation Law on Monday, the DoE has confirmed that if this project had been up for approval after that day, the CPA would not only have been lawfully obligated to give proper consideration to the DoE’s recommendations, they would have also needed to follow any directives from the National Conservation Council because the project is on the shore of a marine protected area.

The application was heard and approved just twelve days before the National Conservation Law was fully implemented.

The CPA has traditionally ignored DoE and other environmental recommendations and there are concerns that have been raised by the DoE, local conservationists and NGOs, as well as the Office of the Auditor General. In an audit examining the issue of development and planning, the OAG said the CPA was heavily weighted in favour of construction and that having the owner of the largest hardware store on the island as chair of the CPA was of real concern.

It is now clear that Thompson is also heavily engaged in development and has managed to see his environmentally sensitive development through the CPA process before it could have been subject to the conservation law.

The auditor had warned that government should reconsider the make-up of the planning board to remove the perception and possible conflicts of interest. However, that recommendation was ignored when shortly after the report was completed, the PPM government re-appointed Thompson and many more members involved in construction, included Watler, the deputy chair.

One of the few members of the board not involved in construction was lawyer Sharon Roulstone. CNS has learned that she reigned just a few weeks ago but it is not clear why she left the CPA.

With the DoE barred from sending representations to the meetings, decisions by the CPA continued to be made in the absence of environmental representation other than written observations submitted at the point of application. The DoE cannot therefore respond when developers or architects make contrary claims when they appear in person.

See the CPA Minutes 4 August 2016, in which planning permission was granted for Coriander Ltd in the CNS Library

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Category: development, Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (104)

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  1. MM says:

    I corrupt and controversial as this all may appear; there is no law barring a chairman or other planning board member from also being a key business owner of pro-construction business and developments – so, with that tiny piece of regulation and law missing; everyone here are getting headaches over nothing.

    Al T did the only responsible thing he could do in the position that he is in – he excused himself from the meeting due to obvious conflict. However, there obviously must be a chairman present in order to oversee a planning application, and obviously that chairman would be a person Al T is very familiar with because they would be deliberating constantly over other planning applications.

    And let us not forget that buildings over seven stories are still not provided for in the Planning legislations… however there is a very tall, beautiful and notable 10 story building rising out of the sand as we type.

    Obviously the local planning law and planning board (and the politicians who create both of these) all need review and revision.

    • Anonymous says:

      no but there is a problem when the owner of a construction company is on the planning board. lol he should step down from the board of he wish to pursue developing. that goes for anyone else on any board or committee. nor should any one on liquor license board own or have a liquor license

  2. Anonymous says:

    When a jurisdiction, like the Cayman Islands, DOES NOT HAVE A DEVELOPMENT PLAN, then all planning decisions are “discretionary” – another word for government organized corruption.

    Caymanians remember that it was the PPM government who reappointed all of the current Planning Board, after the damming Auditor General report on the harmful questionable actions of the Planning Board Members.

    The Planning Board has always been what it is – a reward system working within the “Caymanian Way of Doing Business” – proving once again Mr. Legge is more right than wrong.

    But because Caymanians do not demand honesty and integrity business as usual will continue.

  3. Knot S Smart says:

    Poor Little Al T…

  4. McCarron McLaughlin says:

    Don’t we ALL just love it when these “Unqualified” men squat all over us. Remember there are two sets of rules, one for the rich and famous and one for everybody else.

  5. Conservation my foot! says:

    Why was NCB Group allowed to removed tons of sand from their new TIDES development in South Sound? The sand has been trucked away and is all being kept on private land in Sunrise Landing. As far as I am aware it is against the law to remove sand from the beach. It seems all of the developers around here are breaking rules because they know they can get away with it.

    • Knot S Smart says:

      When you own the land, you own the sand…
      And you can do whatever you want to do with whatever land and sand you own…

      • Anonymous says:

        I thought the Coastline was protected public property, and beach access cannot be denied anyone, and cannot be altered?

      • LeGrand Avocat says:

        The Queen owns the land up to the high water mark. Don’t you be messing with the queen’s sand.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe TIDES can sell some sand to Casa Luna after the next nor’wester?

  6. Anonymous says:

    who cares… planning approves everything… whether it be ALT or not.

    you could have a very nice residential neighbor someone wants to put up an apartment building and planning say ok……

    I would think we should be ferreting over the low income neighborhoods that keep popping up everywhere allowing people to gain residency who should never receive it….. have you visited one of these developments they are high end ghettos.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This article written by Mrs Gina Petrie and CNS is an absolute disgrace, comprising of misleading, non factual and totally fabricated statements and misinformation. Using Casa Luna as an example to support their agenda to oppose this new development is a total fabrication of lies and deceit in the statements released by Mrs Petrie. Casa Luna did not excavate a cove or dig out the ironshore and nor did they create a continuing “extremely problematic” sedimentation or any loss of sand washing into the marine environment. The Casa Luna cove and shoreline remained unchanged, the same as before development and no sand has been lost from the beach or washed out into the marine environment. The very reasons they used from Casa Luna are false and therefore cannot honestly support their reasoning to block Mr. Altee Thompson’s low density development. How can they continue promoting a culture of lies, deceit and misinformation to push their anti everything agenda. This has got to stop and the only way to stop the release of false information is to hold people accountable for their dissemination of damaging and false information in a court of law seeking financial damages against the very people responsible.

    • Anonymous says:

      Funny. There was no beach at Casa Luna when I was a child.

      • SSM345 says:

        There was when I grew up (born 1980), albeit it was covered in dead coral that built up after every Nor’Wester, so did they just remove the dead coral or cover it with sand?

      • Anonymous says:

        There was no Casa Luna when I was a child

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually there were two little beaches or accumulated sand on the site. Previous owners in the 60’s had Rupert Moxam excavate a trench running along behind the ironshore which filled up with sand. The trench was to become a small boat canal and docking on the site with an entrance from a north cut which was also excavated at the time. Casa Luna worked with all that was there on the site and positioned its seawall almost double the distance set back allowed by law to preserve what was already on the site. Sand was added to the beach and the existing cove was improved to create the beautiful environment that Casa Luna has become.

    • Hoodah Thunkit says:

      Did you write this yourself, Ailee, or did you pay someone to write it? It’s disgusting. Mrs. Petrie should bring suit against the author!

    • ANONYMOUS says:

      Oh dear me – somebody touched a nerve – typical knee jerk reaction from someone who didn’t put their brain in gear before hitting the keyboard….

  8. Anonymous says:

    Absurdistan. In a real country this level of conflict of interest would be illegal. Caymunians moan about foreigners but the most greedy tranche of society are the capital owning Caymanian class who concentrate wealth on themselves through the corrupt Board system and political patronage.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The proposed location has coral boulders and bleached conch shells right up to South Sound Rd, if one was to look when passing by. Someone didn’t put them there. How quickly people have forgotten just 12 years ago the impact of Ivan on this coast, as well as the many other areas of Grand Cayman. The continual building and development in such storm impact prone areas, will in the future expose Cayman to a very large insurance claim debt , but it just shows how the mighty $$$$ reigns supreme. To everyone that has developed in South Sound and its adjacent areas, don’t think that Ivan was the worst that can be dished out by mother nature.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If even northern European countries find it necessary and useful to implement hundred mile long, kilometres deep coastline protections that restrict any and all construction, apart from restorative or safeguarding of national safety etc., why does Cayman not see an even greater need – especially considering our tiny size, precarious location, and turbulent weather patterns?

    There was a reason why Caymanians sold that beachfront property for dimes on the dollar. However, we now see follow-fashion Caymanians breaking their necks to set up castles on the seaside – as if they granddaddy never taught em a damn ting.


    Go on man, go on.

    *There is a certain level of respect for nature and the ocean that apparently is only common to those with the closest connections thereto. That perspective is what enabled us to survive to see this day – yet we insist on being led by the mantra and whims of Vitamin D deficient, concrete-jungle raised dimwits. (Dimwits in this respect – relax.)

    Amazing, the power of a dollar.

    – Who

  11. Anonymous says:

    As a South Sound resident, I was very concerned about this development after reading this article. Rather than posting an emotional response as many have, I decided to educate myself by reading the planning application minutes in detail and I also drove to the site to see it first hand. I even walked the iron shore along the coastline.
    If CNS had done even half the research I did, they would not have written such a misleading and slanderous article. They did not cover the dozens of hoops the development has jumped through to get permission, from zoning, waste water manage, setbacks, lot sizes, sidewalks and driveways and on and on. Nor did it mention site coverage is around 25%, well below the 43% maximum coverage by law. The 50ft setback from the high water mark is being met, and is also consistent with the two existing sea walls on both sides of the property. Simply because the iron shore goes in and out, one tiny sliver of land where the pool is being built is slightly less than the 50ft mark, yet as a whole is well setback more than 50ft. Or the fact the developer did not apply for strata lots which he easily could have, and built way more than 19 houses. How about the application being adjourned in a previous meeting to allow an objector to appear before the board, yet never did.
    It also didn’t mention the previous applications that were approved for this lot, like the 2006 approval for 70+ apartments. Now how is that keeping with the existing community? CNS can rally a lynch mob and hang the developer, but I’d much rather see a high end, exclusive development with 19 houses similar to Casa Luna than a 75 apartment building high rise.
    While I would much rather no development at all, we have to be realistic. I prefer a development of this nature over the high density apartments popping up all over South Sound, and find nothing “controversial” about this except CNS’s misleading article.

    • Anonymous says:

      ALT your a south sound resident aren’t you?

    • SSM345 says:

      Wait till the Chinese start building their 1000 condo complex in South Sound, you know that clear piece of land between the dock and shoe tree and has been cleared all the way back to the bypass……

    • Anonymous says:

      Finally someone talking sense. I agree 100% with this educated response. He had to jump through so many hoops to get planning for this and across the road. They were harder on him because he is on the board! Shame that people are always so negative and hate progress.

    • LeGrand Avocat says:

      How much were you paid to write this garbage, Anonymous 10:35?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am totally confused what is the problem if sand goes in the sea?

    • Anonymous says:

      The effects of sedimentation with sand are that it:

      Smothers marine communities and in severe cases, completely buries them leading to suffocation of corals, mangrove stands and seagrass beds;

      Decreases the amount of available sunlight which may in turn limit the production of algae and macrophytes, increase water temperatures and reduce growth of natural vegetation;

      Damages fish by irritating or scouring their gills and degrades fish habitats as gravel containing buried eggs becomes filled with fine particles, thus reducing available oxygen;

      Reduces the success of visual predators and may also harm some benthic macroinvertebrates;

  13. Anonymous says:

    I hate to break it to you people, but Al Thompson has been involved in construction and development in Cayman for decades. Alissta Towers, Silver Palms, Valley Gardens… The list could go on. His experience in construction and development is exactly why he was appointed to the CPA board. Would you rather someone with no experience at all?
    Government appoints boards to give oversight and make decisions, whether CPA, Immigration, Airport or just about any other government authority. The people they appoint to those boards typically have expertise and experience in that field. So if they don’t make the decisions, who will? Some backroom intern working in the UK Foriegn Commonwealth office? What do they know, and what stake do they have in the successes or failures of Cayman.
    So vote whoever you want, PPM, UDP, C4C or independent. It’s not going to change the system. Despite the conflicts that appear from time to time, which is inevitable in a small population country like Cayman, I still rather have Caymanians making the decisions for Cayman than some know nothing pencil-pusher living 5,000 miles away.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is so suspect!
    The AG was correct. This Board is far too heavily weighted in favor of development. And with much the same players for many years.
    Does anyone really think the players involved would have benefited so handsomely if not on this Board? And some of the same on Cayman Airways Board too…flying around for a fraction of what we pay?

    Will the ACC do anything? I’m hoping so! But also won’t be surprised if they don’t.

    Yet they wonder why so many of the Youth have little respect for authority? Why would they not with such examples?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Just want to remind unnah of something – the same Ritz that unnah would climb over each other to bet invited to was going to be the end of all civil society in Cayman a few years back. Not even two years ago the Dart NRA project was the end of Cayman, yet every one of unnah drive on them same roads whenever possible.

    We don’t have gold mines, or forestry, or cheap labour, or many other things to sell, but we all want a piece of the pie, well the pie that we can have a piece of is the development pie.

    So decide – have a piece of the pie working for Al T (I know he has a track record of hiring locals) or sit around crying.

    We simply cry about everything, if it’s an expat doing the development they are taking away our heritage, if it’s a local they are corrupt and should not be allowed to.

    Maybe we need to start looking at the positive in things and see how we individually can benefit from it rather than tear it down all the time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Side note on the Ritz:

      They had to re-do the exterior walls on the building on the beach and then some because they didn’t let the foundation set before going up! I’d say if that continues that might be the end all for them.

    • Cyclops says:

      Too many people are full of Jealousy and Hate. They are not happy with their lot in life and just can’t stand to see anyone do well, especially if it is a Caymanian. As far as those from overseas, I have seen the results of first world development around the world, so hush and leave the man alone. Signed Driftwood. 🙂

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