Minister to rethink NHDT project in mangroves

| 21/10/2021 | 43 Comments
  • Cayman News Servixe
  • Cayman News Service

(CNS): Local activists have persuaded Jay Ebanks, the minister responsible for housing, to rethink a proposal to build affordable homes in the South Sound basin that would entail the removal of mangroves. Environmentalists have been sounding the alarm about the impact that private sector development is having in the area, and persuading government at least to change its plans will help in the goal to roll out a sustainable solution. However, despite the best efforts of residents and activists objecting to the surge of development, the mangrove wetlands of South Sound are still under increasing threat.

A planning proposal has been approved for the controversial Pro Plus application for a substantial apartment and town house development on a 10-acre site of mangrove habitat off Linford Pierson Highway. The application was heard by the Central Planning Authority on 29 September.

According to the minutes, the developer will be required to submit a storm-water management plan for the site, continuing the piecemeal approach to flooding in the area, which the Department of Environment has warned will make matters worse. The concerns of the objectors and the need to retain at least some wetlands on the site were largely dismissed, and the developer wasted no time to begin clearing mangroves at the site earlier this week.

Earlier this year Sustainable Cayman presented the ‘South Sound Mangrove Park & Tarpon Alley nature trail‘ proposal to Ebanks, the planning and infrastructure minister, to highlight development concerns and suggest some mitigating measures. Part of the proposal included reviewing plans to build affordable housing on 24 acres of land owned by the National Housing Development Trust (NHDT).

Last week the minister met with local environmental activists, who pressed home their concerns and the need to prepare for climate change. At that meeting, Ebanks said that, having considered their proposal and the threat that more development would pose, he was optimistic that NHDT project could be shelved with a view to acquiring more suitable land elsewhere for affordable housing in the capital.

CNS spoke with NHDT Director Julio Ramos, who said he was aware that the proposed affordable housing project in the South Sound basin was under reconsideration. He agreed that it was a particularly environmentally sensitive area and said that, provided the NHDT could get the equivalent land elsewhere in the capital, as it still has to build homes that local people can afford, they would not object to the land being reclaimed by the crown for conservation.

“The expectation is that the mangrove forest will therefore not be developed and could be returned to the crown with the intention to leave it as green open space,” Sustainable Cayman spokesperson Melanie Carmichael said following the meeting.

She said the news will be welcomed by those wanting to protect the mangroves, including residents in the surrounding community, especially those in places such as Randyke Gardens, who know only too well the consequences of the failure to implement a wider storm-water management plan for the South Sound basin.

Wetlands serve important water quality improvement functions within the landscape, which is why these functions should be factored into storm-water management strategies. Mangrove forests help to mitigate climate change, pulling huge amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing them in their soils — up to four times as much carbon as other tropical forests. 

“It is very refreshing to be able to have open dialogue with the persons making decisions so as to allow for a greater understanding of what the people of the Cayman Islands feel needs to be done to protect and improve public spaces, preserve culture and heritage and ensure sustainable use of Cayman’s natural environment for future generations to address climate change” Carmichael said.

However, the area remains under enormous development pressure from the private sector and the DoE has stressed the urgency to roll out a sustainable comprehensive storm-water management plan.


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Category: development, Local News

Comments (43)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Little known fact:

    Storm water management plans only deal with the particular development and not the surrounding areas. This means the development will have excellent water management but where will the water go? The answer is into the surrounding areas causing flooding of already existing homes etc. If we do not have a wholistic approach to ground water flooding these “storm water management plans” are simply pie in the sky solutions that make the problem worse for established residents.

    Ps. Mr Bryan seemed to understand this when he was opposition. Why is he so silent now ? Yes he is part of PACT but that shouldn’t require him to abandon his principles ! We should see those principles influence these decisions now! What are you doing Kenneth ?

  2. Orrie Merren says:

    I just want to expressly state that, the only person (MP or Minister in Cabinet) that I have been invited to attend a meeting with others (and I refrain from alluding to what the scheduled topic concerned), was Minister Jay Ebanks.

    All I want to say is that, despite us (as I’m told, but don’t recall) playing football together in our younger years, I (to my memory for the first time meeting him) found Minister Jay Ebanks to be intelligent, possessing good instincts, being engaging on discussed topics, respectful to all sides of differing opinions and a true gentleman and truly conducted himself like a real Statesman.

    I was very impressed with Minister Jay Ebanks’ professional and caring engagement throughout our dialogue. I also have to say that, Mr. Tristan Hyde’s (Chief Officer), who I already know, was complimentary the same. They are, in my opinion, an effective duo that, with respect to working together, make a great team.

    In recent times, inter alia, I think it’s important to praise publicly and criticize privately (at least before incrementally adjusting strategies, if no progress is made).

    Minister Jay Ebanks, I just want to say thank you for being a true gentleman. The same goes for supporting Chief Officer, Mr. Tristan Hydes.

    God bless the Cayman Islands and, most importantly, our precious Caymanian people and local residents.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Ebanks needs to step up not just by paving his on constituency but to improve life for Cayman as a whole. How is his relationship with Mr. Bryant. And why is Mr. Bryant not stepping up to help the poor people who live in his constituency. Maybe they could collaborate on this project, or not.

    What about these many informal housing estates in George Town? Who really owns those lands? Surely a way can be found to redevelop these areas for betterment of their low income poverty stricken residents?

    Why do the poor need to live on swamp? A swamp that developers continually see as needing to be filled in?
    Currently, fast building technologies such as tilt-up concrete panels are being used in Cayman so it might only be 3 months or less for a group of homes to be ready for occupancy. Temporarily housing current informal housing residents in hotels for 3 months should be easy. Government currently pays for quarantining some residents, why can’t they do this for such a redevelopment?

    • Anonymous says:

      There’s the problem.
      MrEbanks, Mr Bryan Mr Saunders ..etc.
      All individuals , rather than acting a a governing unit to the benefit of All Caymanians, rather than pandering only to their district voters.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who is Mr. Bryant?

      • Anonymous says:

        Probably was your favorite basketball star, but of course you know whom it was referring to.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those informal housing estates are very formal. Formally you have to pay rent in them. So what you are suggesting is the Government pay to temporarily rehouse persons, while the Government builds them new rental housing on private land, then when they move back in … who pays whom for the nice new places?

      Note: This could actually work. Imagine Govt floating a cheap redevelopment loan on the proviso that if you replace 4 $500 per month 1 bedroom apartments (in which one person already sleeps on the sofa and shares the rent) with 8 nicer (and up to modern code) $1500 pm 2 bedroom apartments you still have to rent 4 at $500pm in perpetuity. Its like rent control but the owner/developer benefits as well. – CIDB are you taking notes?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Build the affordable homes and ban all the other development in the area.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Pro-Plus not Pro Environment..Has anyone dug deep into this company and it’s owner.

  6. Anonymous says:

    These islands have become all about money , money and more money. If this was millionaire housing no one would have raised an eyebrow. Shame on you.

    • Orrie Merren says:

      If this was about large and medium size law firms (predominantly non-Caymanian attorneys) and small law firms (specifically Caymanians) and sole practitioners (who are all Caymanians), ask the Premier (Government side of the aisle) or the former Premier or current Leader of Opposition (Opposition side of the aisle) what their rational response to that is? I dare them to answer that question!

      I’m all about building us up, not tearing us down. Please let me know what is going on? We still live democratic society, right?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Environmentalists 1, low income Caymanians 0.

    Nice work.

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess it depends who the homes are being built for right? Blame lack of affordable homes for Caymanian’s on the last administration– plenty of land is owned by the NHDT. Making sure homes are getting built and will be built but in areas that are more accessible, safer for communities, from storms and floodwater, more practical for families and close to schools and amenities is now moving in a better direction.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t believe for one second that environmental issues are the reason why affordable homes are not going to the affluent district of South Sound. Come again.

  8. Anonymous says:

    NHDT please look at building homes on smaller parcels of land. Say 1 or 2 acres with 6/8 homes constructed. This would be much better than 40 homes on 10 acres. Large concentration of low cost housing will likely result in future issues, some of which has already been seen in previous large NHDT developments.

    • Anonymous says:

      This.

      Concentrated low cost housing is a recipe for disaster.

      One or two problem families cause misery for many more people dwelling in the area. Before you know, you have the unkempt yard, abandoned cars, stray dogs and anti-social behaviour.

      Build houses that people would be proud to live in, not houses that just address a problem.

      • Anonymous says:

        Have HOA rules put in place so as to eliminate these things from happening. Don’t clean up your yard, the HOA finds you, don’t pay your fine after 3 strikes the HOA seizes the property, cleans it up and rents it out until the fines and ancillary costs are paid with interest.

        • Anonymous says:

          HOA rules….? Don’t kid yourself.
          Do you really think the occupants are going to follow ANY regulations?
          Try to enforce them and they’ll run to Kenny, Chris ,Jay and Mac to complain , and their politician will intervene.

    • Anonymous says:

      guess all the likes here aren’t in the low income bracket – 10 for me, 1 for you and so it perpetuates.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wouldn’t worry too much. All mangroves will be gone, whole of Grand Cayman will be tarmaced over soon, then along comes another Ivan and it’s good night, regardless whether affordable housing or million dollar 1 bed condo on SMB. The tragedy is paradise being destroyed whilst we all watch on and when it’s too late we will lament as to how we let it happen.

    • Anonymous says:

      My thoughts exactly. I dearly wish your words would be read and acted upon; but not in our generation.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure how affordable housing can be labelled on an area that will be 7 feet under a storm surge in the next category 4/5 hurricane that sweeps through *They wont be affordable after the storms passage.
    Developers are so desperate to cash-in on the foreign money being given to them in buckets that they will do anything to convert that cash into a building.

  11. How is this affordable? says:

    I’d like to point out that what appears to be this new development “Yarl” is being marketed on ECAY now with a starting price of CI$369k for a one bedroom…

    • Anonymous says:

      Saywah! That is not “affordable for middle income – so how the hell low income persons will be able to afford that. Low income couples also have children. When are they expected to sleep.- on the roof? There again, chicken with head cut off! Lawd have mercy pon we!

    • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

      Not “affordable” for anyone I know. Not anyone.

      • Anonymous says:

        Affordable requires the following.
        Inexpensive land
        Inexpensive materials
        Inexpensive labor
        Inexpensive financing
        Inexpensive finishes, fridges , washers, etc.
        None of the above exists in Cayman.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Pro-plus developments aren’t exactly sympathetic to the local eco system, unless the natural eco system is concrete.

    I know they’re not the only offenders, but FFS we need to do better.

    Fix the transportation system here to alleviate traffic, which negates the need for these GT developments.

    South Sound is already ruined. It should have been kept low density, low level. The greenery is nearly all gone, and this is over the course of around a decade.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is pro plus locally owned?

      • Anonymous says:

        Turkish Delight

        • Anonymous says:

          Indian delightful actually.

          • Anonymous says:

            Country that has an astonishing pollution rate and poverty. deforrested everything to burn and build- now frantically replanting trees to try to save a nation and teaching their children about the importance of mangroves.

            Plagues sweep through deserts and now we have them in our shores.

      • Anonymous says:

        Caymanian developer who now lives in Australia I think, so does that count as local?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Piecemeal approach. Without an actual plan this is just window-dressing and the ‘park’ will turn into a dead mangrove swamp as everyone builds around it and floods it. But hey, the developers save money because now they don’t have to worry as much about flooding each other out since Government is picking up the tab of creating a catchment area for their floodwater. Good job activists.

    (The one winner is the NHDT who hopefully get better land for affordable housing. Of course thats an if. Hey, I hear the CIG has some land in the Ironwood Forest in Town. Or maybe someone has a few acres to sell the NHDT at a ‘good’ price? Lets get building.)

  14. Anonymous says:

    If there’s a viable and sustainable solution to this then the DOE should provide it. All they do is complain that a solution is needed; yet despite all their expenditure they don’t have one. The NRA some crazy how is responsible for SWM but only on paved surfaces. They do not care about landscaped run off. Meanwhile all that land (as far as I know) is zoned to be built on and valued accordingly.

    Now, if it needs to be protected (and I agree that MAY be the case) then come up with the plan NOW and come up with a way to compensate the land owners. Then you implement the plan.

    What we have now is a bunch of people whining with no solutions, government entities with no teeth or clue what they’re doing or why and land owners who paid market value based on the ability to develop the land.

    Bring a comprehensive plan to the table or stop complaining.

    • Philip Crane says:

      Agreed. The Government has an Environmental Protection Fund that has 10s of millions of dollars in it. I would think the procurement of these lands that DOE deems need to be protected would be an appropriate use of the funds to buy back from persons who would have purchased what was zoned as residential/commercial land. The next step would be for DOE/planning to proactively determine what lands need to be protected and zone them accordingly in advance of further sales/transfers under the present zoning.

      • AskPPM says:

        environmental funds are already earmarked – Regen and protected lands identified sitting in limbo. Should we buy those now?

    • Anonymous says:

      1:16 pm Exactly. Finally someone speaking some sense!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Meanwhile, the poor people will just live in cardboard boxes.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is this thing called “rent”. A home isn’t a f*ing right, it’s something people earn by working.

      • Anonymous says:

        Stop being tone deaf. You well know that it makes no financial sense to sink money into rent rather than toward home ownership. The issue here is that because of the incredibly inflationary housing market mid and local income range Caymanians are being priced out of the market.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes they have to work for a pay check.

      I wish the guys on the street would ask me for a job before asking for money.

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