DoE battles threat posed by developments

| 02/09/2020 | 49 Comments
Cayman News Service
Emerald Beach where owners want to build a pool (photo courtesy of the DoE)

(CNS): The Department of Environment has made several submissions for the Central Planning Authority to consider when it hears applications today, in a bid to save critical habitat and encourage developers to mitigate the environmental threats their projects pose. DoE concerns about some of these applications include swimming pools that will erode beaches and unnecessary mangrove clearance.

In comments on a proposed subdivision in Franks Sound, the DoE urged the CPA to refuse permission to clear pristine and important habitat on a speculative basis.

“Many of the native hardwood trees growing in this area are hundreds of years old, and they form the structure for a highly complex, interwoven community of native birds, reptiles, invertebrates and other plants. Many of these species are unique to the Cayman Islands,” the DoE said, adding that this type of primary dry forest is in severe decline and that it is already scarce and highly threatened because of previous clearance for development

In its submissions in relation to the application for a 29-lot residential subdivision deep in the interior, the DoE said it does “not support speculative or whole scale clearing of large subdivision sites”.

“Land clearing should be restricted to required roadways and installation of services until the development of individual lots is imminent to allow individual lot owners to have the opportunity to retain as much native vegetation as possible,” the DoE said, adding that the ‘Land for Public Purposes’ that would be set aside should be preserved in its natural state to retain at least some of this extremely biodiverse habitat.

The department has also advised the CPA not to grant a requested setback waiver for a beach-duplex in North Side on a turtle nesting site by a marine protected area on undisturbed coastal habitat, and to ask the landowners to rethink the plans.

The DoE stressed the importance of the minimum coastal setbacks for structures, given the climate change predictions of sea level rise, increased intensity of storm events and coastal erosion associated with inappropriately sited developments. They also urged the CPA to ask the applicants not to clear the coastal vegetation, which is what is maintaining the beach, and to limit the removal of the natural habitat to where the structure will be built and only when construction is due to start.

“If removed, the beach would be susceptible to higher levels of erosion, both from wave action and wind borne erosion, resulting in negative impacts to the stability of the coastline and the turtle nesting habitat,” the environmental experts explained.

Cayman News Service
Site of proposed house and pool at Cayman Kai (photo courtesy of the DoE)

Regarding yet another application to build a house and a swimming pool at Cayman Kai far too close to the ocean, the DoE pointed to severe beach erosion in that area because of previous setback grants as important lessons.

“Within the Cayman Kai area coastal erosion is an ongoing issue for many residents, especially for those who have built too close to the high water mark,” the DoE warned, noting that the site in question had “also suffered significant erosion” and “is on an actively eroding coastline”.

But in many cases it is this precedent, which landowners refer to in planning applications, that has created an enduring environmental issue in the area and which the DoE believes must be addressed.

“Using the rationale that neighbouring properties have similar setbacks to the proposed setback does not seem logical or good planning practice when many of the properties in Cayman Kai are currently having issues with beach erosion,” the department said.

Just because the precedent has been set for reduced setbacks does not mean variance grants should continue, the DoE argued, because this area is highly prone to erosion now because of ill-placed developments.

The Department of Environment said it was also “extremely concerned” about the proposed coastal setbacks of another pool in South Sound at Emerald Beach, where history has warned that varying setbacks is a recipe for disaster. It urged the CPA to refuse the request.

Although the DoE and the National Conservation Council have been criticised by developers, who accused them of stifling development, they rarely call for a development to be stopped. In most cases the department offers mitigating advice about how projects can go ahead with minimal damage to the environment and how owners can better protect coastal projects from flooding.

The two main areas of concern are land clearance and coastal setbacks for good reason.

The DoE consistently requests that the CPA prevent developers from clearing land until planning permission is granted and construction is due to start and that the clearance is limited to the site footprint. This is to prevent the loss of habitat for projects that never get underway and to allow those that do to retain as much of Cayman’s natural habitat as possible, which is both easier to maintain and offers protection to homes and beaches.

Many local conservation experts have warned that the beach erosion now being witnessed across the Cayman Islands is going to get worse as a result of climate change, which is a major reason why setbacks should never be varied and, if anything, increased, which would help protect the proposed developments from flooding and storm surge.

But even though this mitigating advice is beneficial to all concerned and despite the fact that the National Conservation Law requires DoE recommendations to be considered, they still appear to carry far less weight than other factors considered by the CPA.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (49)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    For DECADES the DoE allowed developers to slaughter the environment, especially along the WB peninsula. Now after the majority of mangroves have been cleared, they now want to get “serious”. When almost 40 acres of mangroves were cleared by the Island heritage roundabout. Nothing said by the NCC, who hangs on the opinion of the DoE. Forgive me, but the hypocrisy is too rank.

    I am for saving the environment. But what gets me the wrong way is the wishy-washy way the DoE goes about the application of their concern and agenda.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sadly the DoE is often powerless to actually stop developers. They can make recommendations to the CPA but more often than not, these are ignored by Planning and sadly without any consequence. DoE then gets the bad rep. CPA, (which is run by developers) seem to encourage the breaking of laws. There is never any consequence or penalties for illegally clearing land. Time after time they give after the fact permission. CPA is where you should be pointing your finger!

      The NCC can only direct and again often ignored. They do have the power to demand an EIA but again only use this in less than 1% of applications. Even at this low threshold the NCL was threatened by this Government with Review. Again, point the finger at those in CIG who do nothing to protect and preserve our environment.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What about Rosedale Apartments on Crewe Road trying to put an additional 14 Apartment Blocks comprising of 84 apartments in Tropical Gardens- This should never
    get Planning Permission

  3. Anonymous says:

    Because we still have no NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN, CPA cannot consider applications holistically – just on a piece-meal basis. We need a national plan that will enable the Planning Department to consider applications in relation to each other and to how they fit into creating the future Cayman we all want to achieve. Who are we developing for? Right now, anyone with a plan because we don’t have one.

    • An Honest Caymanian says:

      The first thing I would do to stop the Cayman Islands continued loss of natural beauty and protect the environment is to replace the XXXXX running the Central Planning Authority!

    • Anonymous says:

      We have no plan, unless it is to accept whatever investors want no matter how detrimental it is to us. An economic development plan should be our guide to how much development, how fast the population should grow, infrastructure needs, Environmental protection. Also we need Planners who care for the environment.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Don’t worry, the chairman of the CPA will put a stop to this. Oh wait, he is also the one that sells them all of the building materials. No conflict of interest there…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, because the DOE pretty much objects to every project, it is difficult to know whether there is a legitimate issue.

    Do DOE officials who continuously oppose almost everything live in tents and sleeping bags in the bush? If not, I am sure nature was displaced in some manner to build the houses they live in.

  6. Nadia Hardie says:

    Sadly until the CPA and the Planning boards have a mixed composition (ie. not stacked with developers) we are going to have continued short sighted approvals of all developments regardless of the laws in place. The CPA does as they see fit as it’s “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach by these developers. There is no consideration for the environment, nor climate change and we are heading into major irreversible issues. Heartbreaking.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You people need to shut the hell up. Thank goodness the CPA is run by a bunch of business minded men who knows what is required to keep this islands economy going. Get rid of the DOE and deport anyone who keeps stirring the pot. We need way more development, not less and certainly way less restrictions. Keep up the great work CPA!

    • Anonymous says:

      This person doesn’t care about the future generations of Caymanians.

      • Anonymous says:

        Without the money that development brings in this island will crash. The politicians know it and thank goodness Mr. ALT and the rest of the esteemed CPA know it as well.They won’t be swayed by a bunch of cry baby foreigners!

      • Anonymous says:

        Wasn’t it one of our own political leaders who said the economy was more important than the environment?

    • Tom says:

      What a twat you are! You are not worth to live in Cayman islands!

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you ever noticed how everyone tries to park under a tree? Why not preserve as many frees in a new development to cool things off instead of stripping it bare, and then planting a few token palm trees that give no shade.

      Beach erosion is a real problem. Developers don’t care because by the time it happens they’ve already been paid.

      People need to be be more aware of the damage they do and minimize it. It’s not that crazy.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Try this in any other country.. try it. Build without permission on any other island.

    All these homes built without permission should be demolished. End of story. Hell they going to court for. Soft ass planning board.

    Drive down South Sound. End of story.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why have a pool right next to the ocean when you can just swim in the ocean??? Because I know for a fact that a pool will barely be used.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Please Do NOT approve the emerald beach condo pool. This will destroy south sound beach for a pool that will never be used! It’s already canal front real estate further down in SS where CPA was bullied into approval and the effects are as predicted. The beach migrates so much in this location that it will be devastating to build a solid obstacle in the erosion zone. Deny the application. Fight any appeal and do the right thing for the people of Cayman

    • Anonymous says:

      If it’s my pool approve it. If it’s anyone else’s don’t approve. So similar to those who receive Status and proudly announce they don’t think anyone else should be given Status.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t emerald beach have a pool pre Hurricane Ivan. Boy their memory is short.

    • Anonymous says:

      More about the suckers that will buy there nothing nothing about Ivan. Stick in a pool – increase the property price by 20%

  12. Anonymous says:

    It just seems to me that developers can build, and get away with building, anything anywhere they choose. It’s as if every last proposal is green-lighted regardless of the environmental consequences.

    I mean, what thought process went into agreeing to all those developments that are going to feed into Hurleys roundabout? There’s about 4 of them. All going to use a roundabout which is already the worst traffic bottleneck on island. Nuts!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’d give those beachfront patio doors about 20 seconds in a serious storm. This development is all completely nuts!

    • Anonymous says:

      2:05 I wonder how anyone can even get property insurance on a building like that. As you say – nuts!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Big developers, Cayman’s biggest and most dangerous poachers.

  15. Clearly I remember... says:

    Emerald Beach previously had a pool on the beach that was too close to the waterline. It was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. The hubris. SMH.

    • Anonymous says:

      1:14 I remember walking past it right after the hurricane past. It was a wreck! People have short memories.. SMH

      • Anonymous says:

        2:29 I remember inspecting a beachfront place in that area (can’t remember the name but it was two-storey) that got slammed in 2007. The sea just punched through the patio doors and dumped half the beach in the ground floor. It was so close to the sea you could just walk out straight into it. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t fix stupid!’

      • Anonymous says:

        Even nor’westers after Ivan wrecked the downstairs units several times after Ivan (& at Windsor Village). Purchasers in the last decade have not idea what they are buying!

        • Anonymous says:

          So true. The storm activity of the past decade or so has been far below what it previously was. Many people have no idea…

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah then they asked Caribbean Paradise if they could pay to use their pool!

    • Anonymous says:

      Zambula :Too close to the sea, my friend.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, the CPA seem unwilling or unable to get a hold of this very simple yet vitally important set of rules governing the development of the Cayman Islands.

    It seems ridiculously obvious to all – with the possible exception of those who are in on the heist – that it is because the CPA is a toothless organization bought, staffed, and payed for by the developers they are subposed to be policing.

    Does anybody see anything else? Asking for a friend. 😜

  17. Anonymous says:

    Alden’s new economic plan requires substantial development in order to be successful.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It’s only a “battle” when you have a chance to win…

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