LC over-water bungalows ‘unacceptable’ says DoE

| 11/11/2021 | 48 Comments
Site of Little Cayman bungalows (pink) and land-based site (blue)

(CNS): A proposal to build over-water bungalows in a marine park on Little Cayman at Kingston Bight is “fundamentally unacceptable”, the Department of Environment has said in a technical review submitted to Cabinet regarding a coastal works licence application by Peppercorn Investments. In the report the DoE urged Cabinet to refuse permission because of the detrimental impact the project would have on an island that has not yet succumbed to over-development.

The DoE said that an environmental impact assessment would be pointless in this case as the project is unacceptable regardless of the outcome because of the proposed location within South Hole Sound, which is a Marine Reserve, one of the highest levels of marine protection under the National Conservation Act. The only higher level is the Environmental Zone within the Central Mangrove Wetland and Little Sound.

South Hole Sound was designated as such to protect the key nursery area of the intertidal mangroves, as well as the adjacent seagrass beds, and coral reef environment. This area is unique in having these three systems connected, in good condition and benefitting from legal protection. The mangroves at this location are extremely important for sharks, while the Sound is also important habitat for conch and lobster.

“Reserves need to be kept healthy to be successful at keeping our fish, conch and lobster populations at good levels,” the DoE said before explaining why this application would undermine that goal. “Over-water structures have impacts on the marine environment during both construction and operation. These impacts jeopardise the integrity of South Hole Sound and could compromise its ability to function as a healthy conservation area.”

The DoE experts detailed a catalogue of pollution threats from such a project if it were to go ahead, from the construction phase to the logistics of managing the plumbing once such a facility would be in use.

They also noted that in the application, the developers’ report on the construction and maintenance of the proposed project was directly cut and paste in its entirety from an over-water development in Jamaica that had little bearing on the actual project proposed in Little Cayman. It was “difficult to accept these mitigation measures as commitments from the developer”, the experts said, noting that it was “questionable whether these proposed measures would actually be implemented”.

The DoE outlined the serious threats the project posed to the marine environment from the construction itself, the materials being used and then the day to day operations, and also noted the long-term damage to the environment from the loss of light.

“Over-water structures are known to cause adverse marine impacts,” the DoE wrote. “Like docks, there can be shading of the seabed. The department’s guidelines recommend half-inch spacing between boards of a dock. This helps to reduce the impacts of shading by allowing some sunlight penetration, but it does not eliminate the impacts.”

With this project the applicants were inconsistent about the spacing on the docks and walkways, but in any case the habitable structures would not allow any sunlight penetration, the report said. The proposed docks have an area of 9,259 sq.ft and the proposed over-water bungalows have a total area of 16,455 sq.ft. This means there will be a moderate direct impact of 9,259 sq.ft where there will be some light penetration but a severe impact on 16,455 sq.ft of seagrass beds where there will be no light penetration.

The DoE noted that Marine Protected Areas, especially Marine Reserves, are designed to be protected areas providing benefits to all of Cayman, and the benefits extend far beyond the boundaries of the Marine Reserve itself because they contribute to fishing, reef health and an overall healthy ecosystem.

“The department fundamentally does not support the degradation of these resources in the form of over-water bungalows development for private benefit,” the DoE said in the submission. “The department firmly believes that keeping the Marine Reserve in a healthy state has a value which far outweighs the benefit to the public from habitable structures over the water. A Marine Protected Area is a public natural resource for all of the people of Cayman and should fundamentally not be degraded via habitable structures over the water.”

Pointing out the key difference between docks with cabanas and structures with habitable rooms over them on crown property, the DoE noted the scale and intensity of the infrastructure to support them, such as the plumbing, electrical works and air-conditioning as well the size.

The DoE said the ministry had al received dozens of letter of objection which covered a range of public concerns about the direct harmful effects on the marine life in the area and reflected strong public opinion that private development should not be allowed in a marine reserve.

Others spoke of the the slow pace, natural beauty and island atmosphere of Little Cayman being disrupted by the over-water bungalows and the threat to the appeal of Little Cayman’s unspoiled and healthy marine environment, which is rare globally.

Most of the objections focused on the loss of the beautiful view as well as the precedent it would set and difficulty in preventing more of these types of structures if this one was approved.

The two leading environmental non-profit organisations on Little Cayman also raised significant concerns. The Little Cayman District Committee of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands began a petition objecting to the project on the basis of the precedent this would set and damage it would cause in the Marine Reserve. The petition states that a Marine Reserve, as a national park, should not be given away for public use as a for-profit, private commercial operation.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute also issued a press release warning that the increased environmental stress from dredging and construction in the area could be catastrophic for the island.

The DoE urged Cabinet to refuse permission for the licence based on the impacts outlined in the review. But if permission was granted, in the face of recommendations against it from planning, the department of tourism and other government agencies as well as the DoE, as established at a meeting about the proposal, the DoE said that the EIA must be conducted.

The assessment would need to thoroughly assess the potential impacts of the proposed project covering both the land and marine-based components of the proposed project, the DoE said.

See the full report in the CNS Library.

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Category: development, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (48)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yah yah…the rich always get wa they want! Period…

  2. Lomart says:

    It’s a marine park, for God’s sake. Zero development of any kind. Pull this shameless plan now; remove it from the agenda. Toss it in the bin; shred it – whatever it takes but please don’t let us hear anything more about this. Word on the street is that Cayman is for the sale to the highest bidder. Please say that it’s not so. We are really depending on you, Hon. Wayne Panton, Premier. You were elected on your platform of environmental sustainability.

    • Anonymous says:

      Major developers have taken over grand Cayman. That’s ok because Grand is the commercial engine of Cayman Islands.
      The Brac is also in line for millionaires investing in hotels Marinas and condominiums.
      So please allow little Cayman to remain as our place of rest, our garden escape from the commercial paved success of the other two Islands.

  3. Anonymous says:

    ….as if CB & LC Development and Control Board will listen to the DoE’s advice! Central Planning Authority rarely does! Watch this be approved!!

    ALL, please note, the artist renderings show bungalows over dark, grassy water. That’s not aesthetically or financially viable. So, they will want to build farther out into the Sound, or dredge!

    Watch for it!

    CNS: Again, this (the OW bungalows) isn’t a DCB decision. Coastal works licences are decided by Cabinet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Just stop already.

    I was looking at FIN the other day, a symbol of our times, and i noticed they literally built on the boundary wall with no setbacks. A serious deviation from the planning guidelines.
    The people behind that must have exerted some serious pressure and / or called in favours. My point is that i suspect this will be exactly the same.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This disaster should be stopped! To chance destroying one of the most beautiful areas of the Cayman Islands is unconscionable. Shame on the developers.

  6. Anonymous says:

    A win for nature and a loss for millionaires is always great news

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ms Juli, Mr Mose, we just had to stop fishing in this part of the Sound. Now someone wants to make it a hotel? Ms Juli you are in Cabinet. Say this aint so?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Have a look at the provisions of section 18 of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which to protection of the environment.

  9. Mikey says:

    Lets hope these recommendations are not ignored like others in the pass. this is a very serious loss to all if this one gets the go ahead.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ridiculous. Expect little Cayman to remain exactly what it is. An insignificant rock that no one wants to to live on.

  11. Caymafia Clowns says:

    Looking at page 5 of the Coastal Works Review for this project, it really does make you realize how unthorough, lazy and entitled the developers felt in submitting a technical report copy and pasted from a project in Jamaica without even reviewing and editing place names and Statutory and Regulatory bodies for a project located in Little Cayman. Demonstrates how low the bar has been set by previous Cabinets as to what could be expected to be approved with little to no effort on the part of certain influential individuals.
    Well done to the review team for calling it out.

  12. Anonymous says:

    If the Premier allows this to pass regardless of DoE’s recommendations it will be grounds for a vote of no confidence by referendum. The decision is also pivotal to the ongoing preservation of protected habitats in Cayman and will set a grave precedent going forward if allowed to happen.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Just on a 500 foot long extension into the sound in a general S.W. direction. The impact on that dock (now facing South-east)in just a mid level hurricane, would be extensive. In a major storm …
    That is what you get , when your architects design on form, over function.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Good, hope it never happens

  15. Anonymous says:

    Come on Mr. Premier, minister for sustainability,pass minister of the environment. Now is the time to put your proverbial money where your mouth is. The health of the environment is on your shoulders.

  16. Beaumont Zodecloun says:

    Thanks also to all the other entities who came together to oppose this madness.

  17. Beaumont Zodecloun says:

    Thank you DOE. Your assessment is completely obvious and I marvel that it was even momentarily entertained by Planning.

    Peppercorn Investments doesn’t have skin in our local game, being a foreign company. I give them credit for trying it, but, no, dawg, that’s a no from us.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Let’s just have the DoE be the final say when it comes to these construction projects, more sense then the CPA and actually presents the facts! Mr Panton. Building moratorium for Little Cayman NOW!!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    This will be interesting. DOE and everyone with any sense knows that this over the water development is a fundamentally horrific idea. On the other hand the developers and tourism interests that control what PACT says and does will want this to go ahead. Sadly we know which way this is likely to go given the experience of the past 6 months.

    • Anonymous says:

      The things that go on in these developers minds are really scary. Baffling how they come up with these stupid plans and more baffling how they manage to get away with it. Hopefully not this time.

      • Anonymous says:

        “more baffling how they manage to get away with it”. Not really. Everything has been for sale and the principle ‘buyers’ form what is known as the Cabal.

  20. Concerned says:

    Thank God. This would have set a precedent going forward and caused endless environmental problems! Now let’s just hope CPA doesn’t ignore the advice as it seems to do a lot! 🤯😩

    CNS: This is a coastal works application, which is decided by Cabinet, for the over-water bungalows (not the rest of the proposed hotel). General planning applications on the Sister Islands go to the CB&LC Development Control Board, not the CPA.

  21. Anonymous says:

    thumbs up if want to applaud the DOE on this token gesture

    • The gloves are off says:

      Let’s hope the token drops this time otherwise it’s game over for our protected lands and critical habitats.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Ian and Handel rubbing their hands together about now.

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