(CNS): The Cayman Islands’ largest landowner and developer has made a formal application to Cabinet for a coastal works licence to press ahead with its controversial plans to rip out a stretch of beachrock from the sea close to the shoreline of beachfront land it owns near Tiki Beach. Dart Real Estate (formerly Dart Realty) wants to develop another beachfront resort north of the Kimpton hotel, but Dart representatives have said they want to remove the rock formation occurring there and fill it with sand because the natural environment will not be to the liking of potential guests.
According to Dart’s website, the application for the licence, which has been made by one of its many companies, is to excavate some 1,225 feet of beachrock down to a depth of four and a half feet and replace it with sand. The developer took samples in an excavation last December.
“The rationale for the proposed shoreline improvements is to remove exposed beachrock, which is soft rock comprised of cemented sand, where it protrudes along the shoreline, impeding beachgoers’ ability to enter the sea and swim,” the developer stated in the announcement on the site. “This will enhance the recreational quality of the beach for residents and visitors and will facilitate development of the luxury tourism property with a conceptual programme of 225 hotel rooms, 80 residences and 10 villas.”
Dart is justifying the application, which is alarming environmentalists, by claiming the new 5-star resort and residences will contribute a total economic impact of over US$600 million during its five-year development and construction.
“Conservatively estimated, the 5-star project would sustain 800 jobs at its construction peak and support 1,254 direct and indirect positions in the tourism industry once operations stabilize,” the company claimed. “Over 20 years, contributions to the Cayman Islands GDP would exceed US$1.7 billion or 2% of GDP, 4% of jobs and 3% of direct revenues to the Cayman Islands Government.”
It also suggested that its engineering consultants found that the removal of the beachrock would have minimal impact on the beach in the project area and it would allow the beach to recover naturally after storm activity.
“We are committed to responsible, sustainable development and the need to balance economic opportunity with environmental management,” said the company’s president, Jackie Doak.
“Dart Real Estate is a conscientious steward of land, and the proposed shoreline improvements are a manifestation of the long-term approach that characterizes all of our developments.”
But local activists as well as the Department of Environment have raised concerns. In its advice to Cabinet for just the trial removal, the DoE made it clear that this was not some benign lifeless rock that could be taken away but a living eco-system. The DoE had advised Cabinet not to grant the trial licence, but that technical expertise was ignored.
The DoE said geologists had previously warned of the dangers of removing the natural rock formation from the beach because of the destabilizing effect. In a detailed review and a memo rebutting the developer’s claims, the DoE’s technical committee made it clear that they could not support the end goal to remove the rock.