A defining test for our new Cabinet

| 29/07/2021 | 58 Comments

Aristophanes Duckpond writes: Our new Cabinet is facing yet another defining test of its character and its pre-election and post-election commitments. An application has reportedly been made for a type of development that is new to Cayman, a type of development that would see developers not paving over our paradise, but literally building over our coastal marine environment. 

The application is reportedly being brought before our new Cabinet now. If that is the case, it is being brought before our Cabinet has had a chance to develop and approve a new Development Plan for our Islands, and before the unified set of development and planning regulations that Premier Wayne Panton has promised have been developed. Reports indicate that the developers intend to start this new type of development on Little Cayman.

From my perspective, the prospect of the proposed type of development is troubling for many reasons.

Our National song contains lyrics that proclaim: “O sea of palest emerald, Merging to darkest blue”. I do not want that to change to: “O sea of palest emerald, merging to concrete on stilts”.

Apart from that horrible image, we must all recognise that any allocation of public lands made by politicians for the benefit of profit-seeking entities is a minefield requiring the highest degree of probity and transparency. The process being invoked is not transparent at all.

I do not know what has been happening in the background, what deals have been proposed or made or who is buddies with who. I want my country and my Cabinet to remain squeaky clean and a million miles away from even the most remote appearance of the misuse of public lands. We need to avoid a descent into direct rule being imposed as happened in the Turks and Caicos Islands because of the misuse of public lands there. 

In order to understand the context and why this is happening, it is important for all of us to note that there are several advantages to this type of development for developers. There are also corresponding disadvantages for the rest of us. 

1. Developers in effect enjoy potentially enormous concessions and subsidies at our expense with this type of essentially unregulated development. They don’t have to buy land on which to develop and there are no property lines in our coastal waters to limit their developments. Developers just have to cut a deal with Cabinet members, who, in the absence of transparency and any existing rules or guidelines and if they are so minded, may simply give the developer part of our birthright at no cost to the developer.

2. Developers of over-the-water developments are unconstrained by any public hearing of their proposals, as would be the case with land-based development. There is no opportunity for those opposed to such development to be heard, even though in making these types of decisions, the Cabinet acts like a court. Deals are cut in secret. Justice cannot be seen to be done, if it is done at all. Our Bill of Rights is potentially ignored by our Cabinet in this type of decision-making, as was recently determined by the Grand Court.

3. Developers are unconstrained by regulatory controls that currently apply to land-based development. We currently have no regulatory framework specifically designed for over-the-water coastal development on any of our islands. 

4. Developers don’t have to be concerned with the enforcement of any ongoing regulations that apply to land-based development because we have no comprehensive policies, guidelines or regulations for over-the-water development, and planning enforcement has no express authority over such developments under our laws such as they are.

5. Developers operating on Little Cayman are exempt from all duty on any materials they import, and pay significantly reduced work permit fees for the labour they will import to construct such developments.

6. Developers operating on Little Cayman don’t have to comply with most of the planning regulations that apply on Grand Cayman. This ‘free for all’ exists because a previous government passed a carve-out exempting development on Little Cayman from most of our planning regulations. Hopefully this government will fix that. (See Development and Planning Regulations (2021 Revision) 35(3).

7. Developers probably don’t have to even comply with the Cayman Islands Building Code as that Code contains nothing to expressly indicate that it applies to over-the-water development, and there is no planning enforcement apparatus for construction that is over-the-water. In any event, our Building Code was not designed to adequately cover this type of development and recent events have shown what can happen to developments close to the sea, let alone in it. Even if the Building Code did apply, Little Cayman has no resident planning personnel to monitor anything. 

What then should our new Cabinet do with an application for such over-the-water development in the absence of a process that meets the rudimentary elements of natural justice? Should it comply with our Constitution and allow those potentially adversely affected to be heard before deciding? Clearly yes.

What should our new Cabinet do in the absence of relevant risk information, policies, laws and regulations and enforcement apparatus? Should Cabinet make an arbitrary ill-informed decision or should it carefully consider all implications, obtain all relevant information and the best advice possible, and then develop and implement a proper regulatory framework for any such development? The answer to that rhetorical question ought to be equally clear. 

Should Cabinet declare a moratorium on over-the-water development until lawful transparent processes as well as proper policies, laws and regulations are developed? In my view absolutely yes.

Does Cabinet want to create a potentially damaging precedent in the absence of any control framework? Does Cabinet intend to authorise this type of coastal development for every existing coastal property on all three islands and in the absence of any relevant development and planning principles, policies, laws, regulations and enforcement apparatus? Or will they simply make irrational, arbitrary and potentially unlawful decisions on an uninformed case by case basis? 

My suggestion is that our new Cabinet should act lawfully and as PACT promised before and after the April election. 

They should ask themselves, is the unconstrained building over of our marine environment, whether in the North Sound, South Sound, Barkers, Seven Mile Beach or in Little Cayman something that is ‘People Driven’? If it is not, then why would we permit it?  Does Cabinet really believe that over-the-water development is something that the people of Cayman want, particularly in an area that is supposedly a protected Marine Reserve?

Does the new government intend to be ‘Accountable’ and ‘Competent’? The previous Cabinet made an unlawful incompetent irrational decision in relation to a previous coastal works application and fortunately was called to account by our Grand Court. Does the new Cabinet wish to follow that example?

A law abiding ‘Accountable and Competent and Transparent’ Cabinet would not make any secret arbitrary decision. They would not act in the absence of a full public hearing and in an information vacuum on such a vital issue. Instead, it would insist on the development of an optimally informed, all-encompassing process, policy and regulatory framework based on the best possible information and advice as well as public input before even considering such a new type of potentially devastating development.

Will our new Cabinet be ‘Transparent’ in their approach to this and every type of potential challenge to Caymanians’ enjoyment to our marine environment? We will soon find out whether they walk the walk or merely talk the talk. Here are a few more issues for Cabinet to consider in the light of the regulatory vacuum that currently exists for such development.

Should such developments undergo an appropriate independent environmental impact assessment and if so, what are the required components for an EIA for such a development? 

When will relevant laws and regulations required for oversight of such developments be passed. Will they be passed after Cabinet has made its decision, and after the damage is done? 

What are the most appropriate controls for such developments in the context of hurricanes and tsunamis? 

What protocols are going to be put in place for ongoing monitoring of environmental risks posed by such developments and who is going to pay for such monitoring? Who will monitor to ensure that we don’t have sewage leaks into our marine environment over the 25 year lifetime of such a development?

The final aspect of such development that I would like Cabinet to consider, if they decide that they wish to ignore our law and risk the destruction of yet another aspect of Caymanians’ birthrights and our planet’s dwindling environment, is, how many pieces of silver will you accept and who does that silver go to?

If Cabinet makes the decision to go down this potentially dangerous path, then I would ask them to consider the following in calculating the acceptable number of pieces of silver for government to receive.

Do not alienate our birthrights and the birthrights of our children and grandchildren cheaply or permanently. Any rights to build over our coastal waters should be based on a ‘lease’ model involving something like a 25-year lease rather than any grant of a perpetual right. The ‘lease’ ought to have an upfront and an annual component.

The upfront component should be based on the square footage of affected sea bed (including a perimeter of 100 feet) around any development calculated at the rate of 150% of the independently appraised amount of the imputed per square foot lease value of the adjoining land, given that costs associated with fill etc. will be absent.

The additional annual lease payment should be between 2-5% of the inflation adjusted value of the entire project. Such lease payments would provide minimal compensation to our people and would defray the costs of monitoring and enforcing with regard to any and all breaches of our laws by such developments.

Developers of over-the-water developments should also be required to provide an upfront and continuous bond sufficient to cover 100% of the inflation adjusted potential cost to government of returning the site to its pre-development condition at the end of the lease or earlier if the developer does not comply with all ongoing conditions for the existence of the development. Such a bond should be underwritten by a lending or insurance institution with a ‘AAA’ rating. 

Developers of over-the-water developments should also be required at all times during any lease to provide proof of acceptable insurance provided by a ‘AAA’ insurer in an amount sufficient to cover any and all adverse environmental effects of such developments, with the beneficiaries being the Government of the Cayman Islands and any other person potentially affected. 

These restrictions and assurances are minimal in relation to what is at risk. We don’t need to sell our country to the lowest bidder – or at all. Let’s hope that Cabinet agrees. If you talk to or write to any of them, please remind them not to sell our birthrights cheaply – or at all. My children and grandchildren are counting on them. So are yours.

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Category: development, Local News, Viewpoint

Comments (58)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    We sold air rights.
    Have we now sold the Queens Bottom?

    • Anonymous says:

      The UK and the Governor has oversight of the Queen’s bottom…which is Crown property (Remember what happened in the Turks and Caicos?)

      “Ownership of the seabed is generally subject to the public rights of navigation and fishing, but otherwise any activity which significantly interferes with the seabed requires a licence or lease from the Crown.” by Professor Tom Appleby of Univ of West England: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmtreasy/325/32510.htm#n88 (paragraph 68)

  2. Anonymous says:

    The next generations of Caymanians will have nothing to themselves. No green space. No culture. All thanks to the greed and cronyism of the current generation.

    It’s all on Caymanians. Who approves these things? Not expats.

  3. Questions need answering says:

    My question, crass though it may appear on the surface, is nevertheless valid – Where is the pee and poop going to go? To my knowledges LC does not have a sewage system, and most buildings require a septic tank system. How will it work for this planned development? If it’s going to be pumped back to a land-sited septic tank, where is the sewage pipe going to be located? – buried in the Queen’s Bottom?, or fixed to the underside of the connecting walkway? – not a nice image – sitting on the walkway watching the sunset, with the gentle sound of sewage swooshing past beneath your seat.

  4. Anonymous says:

    No over the sea development in Little Cayman.

    Express your frustration of this idea by clicking thumbs up.

  5. Anonymous says:

    In case people are not aware, it will be Wayne who is bringing this proposal to destroy part of the environment to Cabinet as Minister for Sustainability.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is correct. He is the one who brings coastal works applications to Cabinet. Hopefully he will not vote in favour of this project.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Brackers can’t say anything as most work for government and Little Cayman is mostly expats. They are very eco friendly and into sustainability in Little Cayman.

    Personally, I don’t think the majority of the members of the Development and Control Board is qualified to make those kind of decisions. I’m quite concerned that one works for a company that sold everything and one is married to a contractor. It would’ve been nice to put at least one person that cares about the environment and know something about the environment on the board.

    • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

      Agree. All planning officers or DCB members should not be in construction or in business of selling materials for same. Retired contractors would be just fine.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I gather from other comments that the Development and Control Board – the CPA equivalent for the Brac and LC – has some say on this although Cabinet makes the final decision. The Cabinet meeting to consider this is done in secret but
    does the DCB allow public attendance/presentations/comments when they consider this application or is this done in secret too? – Is there any transparency at all?

    • Anonymous says:

      Transparency exists in the name ‘PACT’ but so far it is not the way that they are governing with a few exceptions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Development Control Board or DCB (CPA for sister islands, but with fewer laws) decide on the ‘on land’ portion of the development. (Ask about that if you want to see the other half of this proposal.) The Cabinet get to decide on the Coastal Works, i.e., over water, portion. Fun fact, nothing requires the two decisions to be in consultation or tandem. So you could get permission for half your development and not the other half. So maybe something to fix as this overwater idea has come up before and doubtlessly will again.

    • Anonymous says:

      No. There are minutes posted a few months later. They are not descriptive, but happen to highlight a certain supplier of gravel and sand who consistently are fined for “After the Fact” infractions. This company makes it a function of doing business, and appears to rarely apply for planning permission.

      Good old boys. Hyuck hyuck. Dem boys do wha’ dey wants.

  8. Anon says:

    Don’t worry incompetent cayman airways express can’t even service Little Cayman so there’s no chance of filling any new accommodation whether on land or water.

    I constantly travel to Little Cayman and the last 4 times my flight has either been delayed or cancelled
    The best one was a 27 hour delay to fly 120 miles
    It would have been quicker to fly to Australia

  9. Len says:

    A well written article. This is a true test of the new government. I hope they live up my expectations and refuse it. If the do not it will be like the last government lots of promises when running but once elected sold out to the developers over the people. Please PACT do not disappoint.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Unregulated development in a Marine Reserve. I thought that we left that sh!+ behind us decadess ago but it seems not.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If anybody is interested there is a recent publication outlining the environmental issues with this type of development here


  12. Anonymous says:

    I hope that Cayman does not go down this road.

    The Pacific Island states have done work on how to design Environmental Impact Studies for over-the-water developments. Some of the information is here


  13. Anonymous says:

    Why are we allowing this race to degrade our islands as fast as we can?

  14. Anonymous says:

    The proposed development on Little Cayman IS IN A MARINE RESERVE! Why is this development even being considered? Hopefully it will be quickly dismissed by Cabinet. If not my disgust will reach new depths.

  15. the void says:

    Unna quick to complain about cost of gas and groceries over in the sister islands but the second you put forward something to stimulate the economy ohhhh nooo we don’t want it. It’s something different to offer. Tourists consume too. Read up on economies of scale.

    And look ya 90% of unna complaining about the development probably na even bothered to visit the sister islands in the last decade. Ever stop to think instead of Miami for the 6th time this year, a trip over to our other islands would give greatly needed economic stimulus outside of the trickle of tourists that get diverted from the big island?

    And then people in GCM wanna b#tch that sister islands are just a welfare state. Miss me with the bs. Want ya cassawa cake and eat it too.

    • Not today BOBO says:

      “a trip over to our other islands would give greatly needed economic stimulus”

      boutique resort & spa where the rich n famous can hang out and spend dosh we will never see, eat the conch, catch the fish, tread on the bone fish, oh and look out booby birds and rock iguanas as the foreign invaders take to their bicyclettes and e-scooters. but it’s okay, they will give loads of donations to charities to offset their footprint and post a photo in eco-paradise and maybe they will find a native to pose with them too.

      that nah makin money for us Caymanians, it’s total #BS!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Scaremongering at it finest on display here… Notwithstanding the time and effort it took you to write this lengthy essay, I must say that I feel more afraid of someone like you ‘preaching down to us peasants’ than I do of an established Caymanian builder and his team putting something well designing and constructed down in Little Cayman.

    Brrrr… sends chills. Scare me some more Sir.

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re odd

    • D. Truth says:

      @ Anon. 7:05 pm ; No Caymanian ever wrote anything like that!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      How about direct rule of Cayman from the UK? That certainly frightens me? Giving away Crown land and landing our future generations with South Hole Sound that is dead from the human excrement has no more bone fishing and no sea life in general…..all this to just benefit a few already very wealth individuals who just want more and more and more and more…… Their greed will never end! Stand up Cayman and say NO! Not this time BO BO!

  17. Anonymous says:

    This has already been approved. Watch.

  18. Anonymous says:

    There is no precedent for this type of development. It would be reprehensible for Cabinet to approve this. Even if they wanted to what would they do – give the exclusive right to use the seabed to a developer for free? If not for free then what is the process for determining a value? If there is no rational procedure how do they decide? Sounds like another judicial review coming if this gets approved.

  19. Anonymous says:

    If this is allowed all the setbacks from the sea that we as a society have fought to preserve would be gone in an instant.

    • Anonymous says:

      This has absolutely nothing to do with setbacks? Totally different animal.
      Do you even know what the setbacks are for?? They are meant to preserve the beaches and prevent beach sand loss.

      The detriment an over the water place causes is another issue. Try so go back and read the article fully. Any parts you’re not sure of, just google it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I say no to this type of over the water development anywhere in the Cayman Islands. On top of that the plan appears to show that the shoreline would be blocked between the high water line and the sea. Why would we want to allow that?

  21. Anonymous says:

    I agree entirely. The land portion of the development does not look bad in my view but looking at the plan and having some familiarity with the existing development it looks like the proposed development will extend hundreds of feet into the sea and have a sea ‘footprint’ of several acres. That would set a terrible precedent and should not be allowed.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Excellent Viewpoint. Thank you.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully our new Minister of Tourism will not vote to destroy the tranquility of Little Cayman. He claims to be for the ordinary folks and not the rich fat cats whose greed is apparently unstoppable.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Sewage floating around our pristine Owens Island. Surly not!! Come on Cayman! Stand up and say NO!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    The Governor should pay attention to this application!! Anything below the high-water mark belong to the Crown. The giving away of Crown land in the TCI to benefit favourites of the Cabinet resulted in direct rule of the TCI by the UK. If this Cabinet gives away our Crown land, then Cayman could face the same fate of the TCI and Cayman too could end up with direct rule by the UK.

  26. Say it like it is. says:

    If this project goes ahead the Premier must resign.

    • Anonymous says:

      And what would that accomplish?

    • Oolala says:

      If the project goes ahead, the Premier needs to gut the CPA again, remove the Minister for Planning and the Minister for Tourism and bring a Judicial Review on behalf of the People of the Cayman Islands and the champions of Protect Our Future.

      South Sound Hole is #notforsale. Little Cayman needs preserved. Stop the destruction.

      • Anonymous says:

        I absolutely agree with the sentiment but the reality is that it is the Premier wearing his ‘Sustainability’ hat that will be bringing this disaster to Cabinet so I would not hold my breath for him to turn around and bring a Judicial Review.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I agree. And there should be public disclosure of ownership and control of developers, both in this case and for all other developments on any island here.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Agreed and thank you for a thoughtful article

    • Anonymous says:

      When the next Hurricane Ivan comes, and it will, there will be a major re-think of where and how we are building. People in South Sound will be thinking particularly hard.

      Sad it has to be this way but people have such short memories on our islands.

      Developers call the shots.

      • Anonymous says:

        Um, sure Jan.
        If it can last 30 years before the next one they will have made their money back anyway. It will just leave behind all the sewage and torn up pieces behind.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Utter drivel and propaganda.

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