Balboa case reveals planning process problems

| 15/10/2020 | 86 Comments
Cayman News Service
Balboa Beach just after the storm passed this month

(CNS): The controversial development on the George Town harbour front, Balbao Beach, has served to illustrate a confusing and frustrating planning process. Last week the project went before the Planning Appeals Tribunal to hear concerns about approval given more than three years ago because the project has since gone through more changes and is currently the subject of various suspected breaches of its approval, after-the-fact applications and yet more appeals.

Given that the developers have pressed ahead with work when changes to the original planning permission were pending or appeals were in the works and previous after-the-fact applications had not been dealt with, the small, but now well documented, development has become a symbol for what some describe as the catalogue of problems surrounding the current planning process.

This project was first heard on 21 January 2015 and refused, largely because of the significant setback variances that would be needed to accommodate the project. But the developers persisted and an alternative version was approved later that year. An appeal was filed immediately, but by the time it was allowed in 2016, the project was all but complete. The developer then applied for after-the-fact planning permission and eventually secured approval in March 2017, despite the findings of the original appeals tribunal.

That decision then became the subject of this second appeal.

One lawyer recently told CNS that it is the incredibly long period of time that it takes for things to reach appeal that causes many of the problems over and above what may be poor decisions by the Central Planning Authority.

Samuel Jackson, the attorney representing Kel Thompson, the owner of the development, appeared to underscore the truth of that at the appeal when he told the chair of the meeting that it was normal for developers to press ahead with a project even when the case has been appealed. This means that even when an appeal is successful, it is often too late because the project is already built.

When it comes to commercial development, there has never been a documented case in recent history that CNS has been able to find where a developer has actually taken down a structure that was not given approval. Developers are rarely, if ever, penalized and more often than not rewarded with after-the-fact planning permission.

In the Balboa case, the landowners have appealed the recent mixed CPA decisions, following the rare occasion where it did not get full after-the-fact permission for all of the work it has done on the shoreline, including filling in the ironshore and the concrete dock.

As the acting chair of the PAT at the 9 October hearing, Richard Barton outlined the historic issues, noting that the project was confusing because none of the parties had been able to agree on the chronology of events regarding the planning process relating to this project.

“There are a number of grey areas,” he said about the project’s timeline.

Moreover, the case has served to underscore the received wisdom and acceptance by stakeholders involved in planning that the CPA has almost carte blanche when it comes to stretching and bending the Planning Law.

Kyle Broadhurst, the attorney for Chris Johnson, an objector to the project, had listed a catalogue of issues and the way the CPA had erred in law regarding many of them, from waiving set-backs to ignoring a number of environmental concerns at the time which were not argued or reasoned in its decision.

However, both Jackson and the Attorney General’s Office, which was representing the CPA, argued that the discretion of the authority to waive planning regulations is wide, to say the least, and that its decisions were lawful.

The tribunal’s decision on this is pending. Further issues relating to the project, including Thompson’s appeal, are still to be addressed, along with suspected breaches of current approvals that the planning department recently said it was investigating.


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Category: development, Local News

Comments (86)

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  1. Biden 2019 says:

    Mr. Mahatma Ghandi on THE SEVEN SOCIAL SINS:

    -Politics without principles (I have principles, just forgot where I put them)

    -Wealth without work (I worked at getting myself rich)

    -Pleasure without conscience (Was it my wife or sister that pleasured me – I can’t tell the difference between the two)

    -Knowledge with character (The Donald is at fault for this one)

    -Commerce without Morality (I derive my Morality from Mr. Morality Himself, the Honourable Bill Clinton)

    -Science without humanity (or was that Humanity without Science?)

    -Worship without sacrifice (I propose to sacrifice everyone else)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice to see they have the world renowned actor Samuel Jackson involved in the campaign- hopefully he’ll resolve it Pulp Fiction style.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The waterfront is so butt ugly this makesno difference.

    • Anonymous says:

      The fishermen did not help the situation by leaving all their crap behind after they relocated. Much of this was and remains a hurricane hazard. Now someone has dumped a super market trolley there. There seems to be no pride anymore in Cayman.
      Having spoken to Chris Johnson, the owner he say he is trying hard to fix the problem on his land. Having built the sidewalk for safety reasons he ought to get some kudos. He also tells me he has no intention of commercializing the property unlike his neighbour to the south who is hell bent on making money.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The old decrepit Hyatt property owned by Dart, is a great example of our developers’ priorities. It’s certainly not about respect for Cayman, nor its people, it’s all about ‘more’ money for themselves. Dart has higher priorities than cleaning up the mess he now owns and bought knowing the issues around this once cherished iconic property. Dart executives are most present in the media as they announce a new initiative that encroaches on pristine shorelines, but nowhere do you see their smiling faces when asked to clean up Trashmore Jr.

    • Anonymous says:

      Darts priority seems to be to drive everyone else out of business . This is also promoted by power hungry senior staff who personally have much to gain .

  5. Anonymous says:

    I can only hope that Cayman will get some good men and women come next May that are not easily bought and sold like the ones we have now.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all of these current politicians were voted out of office?

    I am so starving to see some good leadership and much less corruption and power hungry individuals.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The owner of that establishment has made a complete mess of the little cove where the fishermen clean their catch. The old Hog Sty Bay is ruined with that red foreign sand/marl that they used on their “beach”.

    Government need to grow a set of balls and hold these people accountable!!

    • Bayer Lee says:

      Ah come on, Anonymous 11:44 am, the effing government ARE the people that need to be held accountable!

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed, if Government /CPA enforced the regulations we wouldn’t have the total loss of beach in front of the Marriott.
        The Laguna Del Mar developer’s house which shamelessly ignored sea setbacks is in the sea. All the beach has gone and to walk the beach you have to go into the sea to pass the house…. Planning is the only Authority who can put a stop to this.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Kel Thompson should be embarrassed and not pushing this through any further.

    He should stop destroying the environment and set the correct example for future generations.

    What an embarrassment.

  8. Jonathan Adam says:

    Mr. Mahatma Ghandi on THE SEVEN SOCIAL SINS:

    -Politics without principles
    -Wealth without work
    -Pleasure without conscience
    -Knowledge with character
    -Commerce without Morality
    -Science without humanity
    -Worship without sacrifice

  9. Jonathan Adam says:

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” – Frederic Bastiat

  10. Anonymous says:

    Whenever the sea level arrives in the Cayman Islands all places that have mangrove will be filled in. By the way, can the experts tell us, has that arrived? Anyone know by how much?
    If you were here and went into the mangrove swampland you would have noticed the sea crossed in the swamp from the South and the North. Which means you would have had 8-10 feet of seawater. But developed land by Hurleys had 2 inches in their store. Across the street where they are building those condos. had more than 8 feet of seawater. That water did not cross newly developed land.
    So in truth filling in the swamp is the best thing for the future.

    • Lomart says:

      What exactly are you trying to say? “Whenever the sea level arrives in the Cayman Islands”??? Can you expound on that, please? Some of us are not too smart. Please and thanks.

    • Anonymous says:

      4:25am – It seems, by popular opinion (downvotes), that we are not sure what you are trying to explain. It seems to be missing details.
      But it sounds interesting if it means what I think you mean… Please can you add more words to fill us in? Pretend you are speaking to someone that just arrived for the first time.
      Thanks

  11. Anonymous says:

    Perfect picture. Fake beach washed away.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The real problem is the after the fact approvals with ALL the projects. Not necessarily this one.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It’s all about who you know.
    Sad….

  14. Anonymous says:

    This complete idiot had destroyed that area in the water and the neighbouring fisherman’s beach that is now orange and covered in the marl (fake beach) he illegally put on the ironshore. And now I learn he blatantly ignored the CPAs rulings and still went ahead illegally l.

    He should be made an example of. Fine him.
    Make him remove all those rocks that don’t belong and clean up the mess he made. It is simple.

    If not then these islands and lost. Once the environment is gone it is gone forever.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Balboa Beach is a nice addition to the GT waterfront!

    • Anonymous says:

      4.03 I was actually embarrassed to be Caymanian when tourists were using that ‘beach’. What a complete and utter con.

    • Anonymous says:

      According to a sign that was installed, Balboa Beach is a private beach. It is also never been named Balboa Beach until Thompson came along.

      • Anonymous says:

        Whatever happened to beaches being public to the high water mark? By that standard I can sit on the deck.

  16. philip says:

    as of today there are still working on this site, adding a permenent structure for the live band stage, sad that no one has the balls to stop them until its all resolved .

    • Anonymous says:

      Looks like only another Ivan can reverse this madness!

      • Jonathan Adam says:

        The passing of hurricane Ivan made the situation worse, far worse. It is indicative of the untenable nature of the overall equation and situation at hand that it is a common refrain for one to see the prospect of an oncoming hurricane or natural disaster as a solution of some sort.

        We have seen Mr. Joey Hew state on the floor of the LA that his particular amalgamation of governmental maladministration are in secret ‘negotiations’ with commercial and private sector interests. That these ‘negotiations’ are allowed to continue on in a complete and utter lack of transparency is tantamount to a crime against the interests and the well being of the Cayman Islands, her people and our collective future. That is to say nothing of the fallacy of ‘good governance’. This purposeful and diabolically contrived disallowance of public knowledge and/or scrutiny of these ‘negotiations’ is a recipe for disaster. These opaque ‘negotiations’ are in the furtherance of an illegitimate and subversive power and influence over any and all decision making processes in and of the Cayman Islands.

        The pandemic itself has been, and continues to be, used as just another diversion tactic in the furtherance of an institutionalized corruption and the destructively inequitable equation which that corruption is designed to facilitate. This purposeful lack of transparency and lack of accountability within a financial, administrational and economic morass of deceptively miscreant behaviour is the inevitable result of a heinous dereliction of duty, and far worse.

        None of these things serves the well being and/or the interests of the Cayman Islands, her people and/or our collective future.

        That is the real disaster, and it is a disaster which is man made.

        • Anonymous says:

          I admire you Jonathan Adam. You articulate your thoughts well and address the underlying issues that impact society.

          I hope you are in a leadership position on island and continue to work to improve Cayman.

          Kudos.

          • Anonymous says:

            If only you knew…

            • Jonathan Adam says:

              Know what? Tell me. Tell us. I am not the one who operates behind a veil of secrecy, so have at it. Whatever my faults, failures and weaknesses may be, my life is an open book. I will wait for your response. Feel free to sign your name if you have the courage and are not completely disingenuous.

    • Anonymous says:

      2:59 pm
      If it was a poor caymanian they would have heavy equipment there to tear the structure down. We need to stand up to this useless government and show them the poorer class must survive. They must scrap that bias planning board.
      The head will approve those projects in his interest.

  17. Laughing says:

    Well. I am currently building a project in South Sound. I went to planning and never recieved a response for permission. I also have four wooden shacks in the back, powered by extension cords, an out side toilet and shower (using a hose). The rent is 600ci a month.

    I currently live in half, on temp power (6 years now).

    I do not a a proper septic, it’s a hole in the ground covered by plywood and rocks.

    I have paid off the guy from CUC, Water Authority and Planning every year (5 grand each).

    Just goes to show what someone with enough money can do here in Cayman.

    What a joke the laws here are….

  18. Anonymous says:

    This whole fiasco is only because of some feud between Chris Johnson and Kel Thompson. Sandbar was designed very well and is a great addition to George Town.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sandbar land is owned by Tortuga Rum Co, I am pretty sure. Or at least the land was, not sure who runs the business. Kel Thompsons shh show is north of that.

      • Chris Johnson says:

        The Sandbar property is owned by Jacques Scott and co. Thompsons illegal concrete slab is leased to the Sandbar next door. When fully occupied it is a fire trap should either buildings be on fire. The only way out is to jump in the sea. The fire department needs take a close look.

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess all the money in the world can replace the ironshore too, right? Smh

    • anon says:

      2.00pm your comment stinks to high heaven and we all know of what.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually Sandbar is renting the land the stage sits on from Kel Thompson. So Sandbar is part of the fiasco.

      • Chris Johnson says:

        Sandbar modified its bar but overlooked planning permission. Thus like Thompson they had to make an after the fact application. Birds of a feather.

  19. Anonymous says:

    So the taxpayers dollars are now being spent defending Kel Thompsons interests?

  20. Anonymous says:

    If a developer needs permission to do something and does it without permission or where permission has been denied then that is illegal and the illegally built structure should be removed.

    If the developer has done it knowingly then it should also be a criminal offence.

    This is so obvious that our lavishly remunerated MLAs should be able to fix any issues with the law or the CPA in about half an hour.

    Yet they haven’t. I wonder why?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Shut up all you whiners, this is a true original Caymanian family and they deserve to get the approval.Mr. Premier will straiten this out!

    • Anonymous says:

      This is so wrong but now that King Bush is back in the chair, Large and in charge this is back to the normal. Law and order is for expat driftwood. This here is Caymanian stuff. Bush will never see the jail cell with his name on it and the Planning People will still act like Caymanians and make everything difficult and expensive to do.

      • Anonymous says:

        He was never out of the chair! The speaker’s role is just for the expense account and fancy dressing gown. His real seat is at the head of the bank of favours, circumventions, undeclared interests and dirty secrets.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even “ true original Caymanian families” have to obey the Law.

      • Anonymous says:

        You jokin? Caymanian original families are entitled. Only someone in a deep sleep here would deny that fact. So many examples through the years in the courts.

      • Anonymous says:

        They should, but apparently they don’t and with the blessings of ministers.

        Let me clarify my response: Many(not all) “Rich and powerful/influential Original Caymanians” have no need to obey the laws, they can/do whatever their financial interests desire.

        “Less affluent and less powerful/influential Original Caymanians” don’t have the stature to flaunt the law so openly. They are shackled and repressed by the upper class

        This is yet another example where certain “Original Caymanian: families Do Not have to obey the law.

        • Anonymous says:

          There have been many cases of it exposed this year- it has become glaringly obvious that a class system exists in Cayman.

          The common denominator in all these cases, along with many outside of the Planning/CPA remit is lack of enforcement.

          With no consequences, the behaviour will not change. Even worse, others will feel entitled as well to flaunt laws, rules, and policies.

          Being locked down due to COVID should be the least of anyones worries at this time- the lack of everyday application/enforcement of existing laws will have much longer damaging impact.

      • Anonymous says:

        All evidence and headlines to the contrary. Some are truer than others.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ugh. You don’t get the right to destroy the island because you were born here.

      • Anonymous says:

        No, thats reserved for expat developers using foreign “investment” money from millionaires hiding out from paying taxes and then they get a discount aka concessions. Cant make this $#!+ up!

        • Anonymous says:

          Well, you vote the people in who make the laws so don’t complain when it doesn’t go in your favor.

          • Anonymous says:

            NEWSFLASH: the coalition govt currently running were not actually voted in by any majority.

            If you dont understand this by now, you should really stop posting ignorant and inflammatory comments.

    • Anonymous says:

      If we let Caymanian developers do whatever they wanted you can say good by to all mangrove.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ivan’s cousin Delta luckily missed the Cayman Islands last week. We may not be so fortunate next time.

        Mangroves have been proven to limit inland storm surge. Think people!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        And Smith Cove.

      • Anonymous says:

        Headlines today. Cement dumped into mangroves(Cayman Compass Friday). Headlines tomorrow. Caymanian Government is bankrupt and no longer in charge.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the place supposed to be?
      Is it a business? If so, I won’t be supporting it and will discourage no one else does either.

      • Anonymous says:

        I along with a number of friends now don’t go to the sandbar on principle

        • Anonymous says:

          Pretty sure Sandbar is not owed or part of Balboa beach. To be fair,
          I have never been there either so please correct me if I am wrong.

          • Chris Johnson says:

            The Sandbar rents the slab of concrete with the ‘ moveable fencing’ from Thompson. The slab of concrete like all Thompson applications except the first were after the fact. The first application for the office was turned down due to lack of setbacks. The next application for the office was exactly the same but approved with no reasons given.

            Thompson now claims he never submitted an application for the illegal wall and car park. Thus if he is correct he will have to submit yet another after the fact application.

            The CPA file contains all of what I describe. It is a joke and reflects just how useless our enforcement laws are.

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanian entitlement at its best.

    • Anonymous says:

      True Caymanian people made the laws! You should be ashamed of your comment.

    • ANONYMOUS says:

      What a moronic statement – presumably you are from a “ true original Caymanian family “

    • Anonymous says:

      1.06pm Hopefully sarcastic!

  22. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see how a developer going ahead with not yet approved changes is a planning fault…it is only an issue if they don’t make the developer reverse all unauthorized changes or at least assess a substantial and meaningful penalty and halt anymore construction until paid in full.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yet this NEVER happens. Downvote to you. You’re talking nonsense.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m not saying it doesn’t happen…merely if it does then it’s planning’s fault…so downvote to you moron.

      • Anonymous says:

        This attitude further proves these developers believe they are above the law in Cayman.

        If they did this foolishness in any other country, the government would slap them with jail sentences and fines so large their grandchildren would still paying them, but with this government and the developers, it seems one hand washes the other.

        It’s not about putting people down or blocking business, it’s about principle of law and responsible development.
        Most international, and sadly some opportunistic local developers just see the Cayman Islands like every other Caribbean nation, a cash cow where the world comes to vacation. Special today and washed up tomorrow. And when the money dries up, they disappear with their cash grab and abandon ship, on to the next one. When the shoreline is all destroyed and beyond repair, they will raise their hands up like they don’t know what happened scot-free and the generational Caymanians will be left to salvage the bits and pieces of what is left of their heritage and standard of life.

        Nobody is saying we can’t add to the shoreline developments and make some money along the way, but we must do it sustainably and responsibly.

        When the person who approves these projects all over these islands is the same person who sells the construction materials, it is frankly disgusting and demonic.

        This can be a win-win situation for everyone. However, because of impatience, allergies to red tape, and greed, it’s a win for developers, political opportunists, financial stakeholders, and any combination of the above; and a loss for everyone else, humankind and marine life.

        Enough is enough!

    • Anonymous says:

      Like the substantial and meaningful penalty against the former Hyatt eyesore that should be accruing daily and by now must be close to being able to settle the national debt…

      • Anonymous says:

        Or the Illegal wall at Frank Sound landing. Nothing gets torn down here in third world. Just do as you will and be happy to pay when asked.

        • Anonymous says:

          Or Captains Bakery dome. Told before Ivan to remove it.
          Stopped believing in god after that hurricane. Why would he/she destroy homes & leave that abomination standing?!?!

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