(CNS): The controversial application from a Dart-owned firm to extend the West Bay Road tunnel was approved Wednesday by the Central Planning Authority. The 400 foot structure already under construction will now be extended to include the recently acquired Royal Palms site. Planning permission was denied in November for the 170ft underpass extension because Cayman Shores Development failed to demonstrate sufficient reason to increase the structure, but they returned before the committee to justify the extension. Dart representatives also indicated future development on the tunnel could be far higher than the current plans indicate.
During the meeting it was explained that at the time of the prior application, the acquisition of the adjacent Royal Palms site had not been completed. Since Royal Palms was acquired, that site has been incorporated into the planned development, providing sufficient beachfront for a 5-star hotel on the Coral Caymanian property.
“The negotiations with Royal Palms took many years and although we always thought it was close, there was no certainty,” Dart Real Estate President Jackie Doak said, as she explained why the original application for the underpass had not covered all of the now proposed 595 feet. Consideration had been given to making a joint planning application with Royal Palms, but it was determined that was not something they wished to do, she added.
Ray Howe, General Manager of DECCO projects who was also at the meeting, spoke about what will go above the tunnel in future. Howe said it could hold three storeys, if desired and approved. But speaking hypothetically, he said that with the necessary beams and supports in place, it would be possible to build even ten storeys on top of such a structure.
Meanwhile, Doak confirmed in the meeting that there are currently no firm plans in place for the top of the structure. “We want to make sure we have the appropriate time to design a truly exceptional hotel,” she said.
The National Roads Authority has stated publicly that while the superstructure of the underpass, as currently designed, can accommodate loading factors associated with low-rise buildings, as shown on Dart Realty’s Master Plan, the risks associated with buildings on top of the underpass will lie with the developer and not the NRA.
Arguing the case for the extension, the Dart officials said they would extend the agreement currently in place between Royal Palms and Island Pine Villas, which allows vehicles from Island Pine to park on their property. This was welcomed by the CPA members, some of whom expressed concern about Island Pine residents having to park on the street. Doak also stated that there were no future plans to extend the underpass any further or incorporate Kenneth Dart’s own house on Seven Mile Beach into the plans.
During the meeting pedestrian safety was also discussed. Officials said they would be protected by a raised walkway with barriers along either side of the tunnel, while elevators and stairs will be incorporated into the structure so people are not compelled to walk through the entire tunnel. The issue of alternative travel routes for oversized equipment and vehicles was also addressed, while the committee was satisfied with the planned public access routes to the sea.
In a statement after the CPA announced the approval, Dart said that it welcomed the decision.
“Dart Real Estate welcomes the Central Planning Authority’s decision to approve its application for an extension to the West Bay Road underpass,” officials said. “Dart Real Estate believes an elevated development plane spanning all of the Camana Bay oceanfront property offers the best opportunity for connectivity between Seven Mile Beach and the Town Centre.
“The objective of the extension was to enhance existing infrastructure and to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety along the north-south corridor of Grand Cayman. Dart Real Estate believes this would enhance the experience for residents and visitors, whether they are walking, cycling or driving. Dart Real Estate remains committed to Camana Bay’s growth as a true sea-to-sound community and its continued investment in the Cayman Islands,” the company added.
Category: Local News