NCC and CPA facing another potential battle

| 14/09/2022 | 66 Comments
Example of interior lighting illuminating the beach (photo by the DoE)

(CNS): The Central Planning Authority and the National Conservation Council might be engaged in yet another dispute over the council’s powers to curtail unsustainable development. This time, in one of only five projects where the NCC has issued a directive, the pending conflict is over a developer’s failure to submit an adequate turtle-friendly lighting plan for a proposed luxury home on a critical nesting habitat along Rum Point Drive in North Side.

The NCC has directed the CPA not to remove a condition of planning approval, but the planning department has said the decision on whether or not a condition of approval has been met lies with the board. The project in question has been held up since July because the proposed lighting plan is not turtle-friendly, according to Department of Environment experts, and the NCC has said the CPA should not allow construction to resume until the developer addresses the issue.

In a letter to the CPA, the architect, NCB Homes Ltd (John Doak Designs), representing the owner, claimed that the DoE’s requirement for the luxury oceanfront home to install tinted turtle glass is “unjustifiably restrictive” because it will make the home too dark and take away the quality of the view. The applicant has stated that they want to use drapes instead of window tint to prevent interior light from illuminating the beach, a major problem for both nesting turtles and hatchlings.

But the DoE raised concerns about the potential light that will come from the home because it will shine directly onto the beach. Even where special turtle lights have been installed in external areas around other properties, interior house lights can beam onto the beach and in some cases have caused turtle misorientations. As a result, the DoE now recommends that beachfront homes in designated critical habitat install tinted windows to curb the impact of interior lights on the sand.

In its submission to the CPA about this particular application, the experts explained why drapes are not the answer, given that the season lasts for more than half the year.

“As we hope the CPA can appreciate, relying on a property occupant to close their drapes every night
at sunset during the turtle nesting season every year introduces an element of human error and a
high likelihood of failure,” the DoE said. “The likelihood of failure increases if the property becomes a vacation or long-term rental.”

The DoE noted that over 175 baby sea turtles were lost in 2020 because the residents of homes on otherwise turtle-friendly lit nesting beaches did not close their drapes when asked, despite being aware of the nests near to their property. “These incidents provide compelling local evidence that failure to install glass tinting has adverse effects on the critical habitat of a protected species,” the DoE added.

Referring to the recent ‘Boggy Sand’ case, where the court has reaffirmed the authority of the NCC to direct the CPA to refuse an application if it will likely result in an adverse effect on a protected area or the critical habitat of a protected species, the DoE pointed out that the board has no choice but to apply the law, whether it agrees with the NCC or not.

This applicant has asked the CPA to effectively approve the lighting plan to allow the developer to carry on building the house. However, the DoE has stressed that the condition was directed by its director under the National Conservation Act and so it is outside of the remit of the CPA to approve.

“The beach at the site has been designated as critical habitat for nesting sea turtles,” the DoE said. “The turtle friendly lighting plan submitted is incomplete and does not minimise the impacts to sea turtles. The applicant’s proposal to utilise window drapes as a means of mitigating the adverse impacts of interior lighting is not an acceptable solution.”

If the CPA removes the condition, it would again be making a decision that could have an adverse effect on a protected species without the approval of the NCC, which the court has already found would be unlawful. The DoE has directed the CPA to refuse the applicant’s request to discharge the condition and refer the applicant back to the DoE to work out a turtle-friendly lighting plan that fulfils the condition.

In its comments on the issue, the planning department has implied it still takes the position that it is the CPA that says whether or not the condition imposed regarding the lighting has been met.

“For clarity and the avoidance of doubt, the condition does not state that the plan has to be approved by any agency, only that the applicant prepares and submits a plan for review. It is for the Authority to determine if the applicant has discharged this condition,” planning officials claimed.

The DoE is expected to attend the meeting today (Wednesday) in relation to the dispute, which is set to be heard at around 2pm.

See the CPA agenda in the CNS Library application 2:6 (p39)

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (66)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Real Estaters, Investors, Developers, and Facilitators be like

    “F**k Them Turtles”

  2. Anonymous says:

    Turtles feed on sea grass, we’ve seen a lot of developers and home owners try to get rid of the grass in recent years

    Turtles and their eggs provide nutrients for the beach sand, they are a major reason we have such incredible beaches.

    But building condos and homes that are used maybe 10% of the year is more important i guess, because you know, trickle down economics that doesn’t actually trickle anywhere of note, it FLOODS into the Developer, Financier, and Realtors hands.

    its disgusting what we’ve let Grand Cayman become. And now we see mega plans for the Brac, and they’re still trying to bludgeon Little.

    We have veered so far away from paradise.

  3. Johann Moxam says:

    There must now be a structured national discussion between Developers vs Environmentalists lobby in Cayman.

    This discussion has to be guided by data, candid exchanges, less emotional ranting and “COMPROMISE” to avoid a national failure and irreparable bad blood that will negatively impact our economy, potentially government revenues and quality of life concerns for all.

    The future of our country demands our elected leaders, senior civil servants and all stakeholders to work together, dropping all egos and personal agendas and understand the bigger picture. What kind of Cayman do we want?

    Stakeholders and government must demonstrate a willingness to work together in order to achieve a set of rules that are fair with the outcome being a clear set of national solutions that will benefit us all.

    It can be done, it has been achieved in other countries and must be done in the best interest of our Cayman Islands.

    Best regards

    Johann Moxam

    • Anonymous says:

      ““COMPROMISE” to avoid a national failure and irreparable bad blood that will negatively impact our economy, potentially government revenues and quality of life concerns for all”

      Notice that everything there is about $$$$.

      Translation: compromise on the environment side and let the turtles die as long as we can build whatever we want.

    • No Sah says:

      developers been getting away with their version compromise for decades.

    • Anonymous says:

      My dear Moxam, you add a train load of needless complications when the government cannot even effectively deal with the fairly simple laws and regulations we already have.
      “What kind of Cayman do we want?”
      A major reply to your question was provided when the People’s duly elected representatives voted to enact the National Conservation Law (NCL).
      Before we get into all the complicated and very time consuming crapola you suggested in order to arrive at “a clear set of national solutions”, it would be good to add teeth to and enforce the one solution already arrived at and passed into law. If the NCL were fully implemented and diligently enforced, we would not even be having this exchange. Time for the Panton-PACTless Clown Car to leave the circus and do their damn job: Fully implement the NCL and put in place the system for proper enforcement thereof.

    • Sustainable Cayman would welcome the opportunity to work with stakeholders for the collective good of the country.

      Pinning down just what sustainability means and how to turn its principles into practice as an individual, community, and government can be challenging.

      This is because people often have their own understanding of the term (or maybe none at all). These conceptualizations have implications for decisions we make in everyday life and the plans we make for the future.

      This can involve things like:
      – livelihoods
      – food security
      – preserving culture
      – renewable energy
      – resilience to climate change
      – national development plans
      – constitutional and legal rights
      – conservation of natural resources

      By using the most logical framework of nested interdependence, we can identify if something really is sustainable and use this knowledge to push for policies that work for all of us, including future generations.

      This does not have to be Us vs Them. We all have a role to play in collectively walking the path to a more sustainable future.

      • Anonymous says:

        We need to outline a planned retreat/removal of ALL the development in South Sound for the past 50 years for one. Instead of trying to come up with a new and impossible stormwater management plan, clear and return the area to the natural state it used to be.

        • Sustainable Cayman says:

          Not particularly feasible but agree all development needs to be set well back from the coast. Restoring the existing mangrove wetlands to naturally function and adapt within and around the planned urban development would be a compromise. It would also create a nature park and amenity for the community and resolve the discharge drain by the boardwalk. To protect the beach ridges and prepare for sea level rise you need to restore mangroves in the sound where they previously existed along the coast. This could be a combined effort with developers and those who wish to restore the environment. See the ‘Tarpon Alley Nature Park’ proposal.

        • Anonymous says:

          Starting with the properties across the road near the dock.

      • Courtney Platt says:

        In part to this (sustainability) end, there was a lot of agreement among PACT candidates during the run-up to the last election that community councils would be formed in each district that would be able to, through regular public meetings discuss and collate public input for matters of stake holder interests to be shared with our law makers. Because of the immediate pandemic response that was required when they took office I’ve been patient regarding many campaign trail promises. I’m still waiting… and I still believe that a lot of great things are soon forthcoming now that the pandemic has eased. Tough changes take time. I’m a firm believer in the good will and love for Cayman of our highly capable Premier, Wayne Panton. PACT is the first Administration that I’ve seen in 40 years of unbridled development, giving real consideration to environmental preservation for the distant future. I am grateful to our MPs for taking on a job that I would not have the guts to attempt. Politics is a world of hard decisions in which you’ll always be “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If turtles had access to brown envelopes and cash I suspect that there would be more turtles….

  5. Anonymous says:

    The rich are intent on ruining this island for the average person that values it’s unique environmental attributes.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think people have to take a step back and have some common sense here. If you hate development, then make rules to regulate the development. Pretending that turtle nesting habitat is important and trying to stop development to “protect turtles” makes no sense. Cayman would need to remove all of the development on Seven Mile Beach in order to restore the original nesting habitat. And what would happen then? Well, there might be a few hundred more green turtles swimming about, but several billion dollars of real estate would have vanished and thousands of people would be out of work and looking for a job. Plus, we already have a turtle farm that breeds lots of green turtles.

    • Anonymous says:

      The point of this particular requirement, verified Turtle Friendly Lighting, is that you can have BOTH the development and natural turtle nesting. These are win-win solutions for a sustainable future.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The CPA is out of control. The NCC is on the side of good.

    • Anonymous says:

      3:39 pm What exactly did the CPA do wrong here? Did you read the Agenda? The DOE specifically noted that the CPA included the conditions as exactly directed by the DOE. The applicant requested the CPA to waive those conditions but the CPA said no because it cannot go against the DOE directive.

  8. gavin says:

    Doak should be ashamed of himself. Clearly the attitude is “forget about the turtles so we can have another luxury home.” What a disgrace that even the simplest accommodation is refused by the developer and homeowner….one can only imagine what type of people they are.

  9. Anonymous says:

    14 @ 11:56 am – Thanks. That doc is labelled as advice. So why do they try to enforce an advisory?

    Ass backwards as usual. “Let’s create and publish an advisory, not a requirement. Then complain when people don’t follow.”

    Reactive public agencies. World class!

  10. Anonymous says:

    You do know you can just install the lights, get your approval and change them the same day right? It’s what everyone does with all the other unnecessary impositions.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How about shades that close on a timer? This is silly. More than the other case, this one demonstrates how obnoxious the Doe is prepared to be.

    • Anonymous says:

      Obnoxious developer alert!

    • Anonymous says:

      How about the applicant propose that? They did not. Their response to ‘protect the turtles’ was clearly ‘we don’t care’. So what is the environment agency supposed to do? say its OK not to care?

    • realist says:

      Who’d have access to the settings for the timer to ensure the occupants don’t adjust it during turtle nesting season? The DoE?

      ‘Automatic shades on a timer’ are just human adjusted window dressing with one step added.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Listen, this one is pretty damn clear cut.

    The turtles are already defined as a protected species.
    Those coastal areas are already defined as their protected habitat.
    That means turtle friendly lighting needs to be used.
    That’s it. Full stop.

    The owners, designers, architects etc all knew going in full well that this was required. It was set out by the DOE as a REQUIREMENT of the construction.

    This isn’t a pre-existing cabana that’s being grandfathered in. It’s not a renovation. It’s not a zoning change.

    This piece of land had rules associated with it. Follow the damn rules. This one shouldn’t even be an argument. Tint the damn windows and move on.

    • Anonymous says:

      Perhaps these ” want to control everything” developers should not be allowed to build anything until they sign and have notarized a statement that they will comply with all rules pertaining to the plot of land in proximity to places wher turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. There should absolutely be no arguments about it. Why is this so hard to do. No signed and notarized statement- no building permit- no rocket science.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hang on one sec.
        Just fyi I wrote 12:49 and it’s got nothing to do with “want to control everything developers”. This is about 1 specific builder on one specific site that is doing something they’re not supposed to be.

        This whole debate is about the DOE controlling things and Developers pushing back and doing what they want. That’s a long and drawn out story that’s going to take a long time to settle.

        This specific plot and specific debate is clear cut. There’s no need for notarized letters or any such nonsense. A requirement for turtle friendly lighting was part of the planning application and this group of people is trying to circumvent that. That’s wrong.

        It is also wrong to paint all developers with the same brush just because this one is doing something foolish.

        • Anonymous says:

          Good for you then. You are not one of the “want to control everythIng” developers. If the shoe don’t fit don’t wear it. What exactly is your issue? Seems as if you follow the rules.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Rather than have a continuous debacle between the CPA & DOE over protection of turtle nesting habitats put the responsibility on architects to plan within the environmental policy. Make environmental protection policy law, and revoke licences of architects who repeatedly submit plans which are unsustainable and not environmentally neutral or additive.

    Stop wasting our purse in legal fights over flimsy or non existent environmental legislation. If you are really worth your salt Mr. Premier, end this foolishness, enough is enough, and Cayman’s dwindling environment is almost out of time.

    • Anonymous says:

      EXACTLY! Any government member/ minister/ politician who don’t agree should be invited or forced to vacate his position? You are either for or against.

  14. Lights Out says:

    Does the principal owner of NCB still hold a turtle hunting licence?

  15. Anonymous says:

    SOS. If anyone out there has access to The Premier please make him aware of the meeting happening later today. He needs to be there to support the DOE.

  16. Boomer Collateral Damage says:

    Just another example of the millionaire real estate interest being given inches and taking miles from this island.

    Why is NCB/Doak so adamant on ignoring such a simple effort to coexist with what God intended for these beaches? Grow up guys really.
    Glad at least something is finally being done in stopping more disruptive lighting going up.

    • Anonymous says:

      You really do not get it do you, money is the boss and rules everything. CPA will ram this one thru and not a dam thing will happen, watch Boggy Sound Road, that will go ahead as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      Especially since he has probably already made millions doing his craft. They have no regards for our little 2×4 Rock and won’t be satisfied until every natural thing is grazed flat and millions and millions of concrete blocks replaces it.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Has “turtle-friendly” lighting been defined by the authorities? Is there a particular specification which must be met? If so, why isn’t the requirement included in beachfront developments planning requirements?

    Trying to band-aid it after the fact is more difficult.

    Oh, I forgot – reactive Cayman public agencies!

  18. Anonymous says:

    *eyeroll* Of course its NCB….

  19. Anonymous says:

    The NCC is getting ridiculous. Now requesting owners to install tinted windows on homes so that this might not disrupt turtle nesting.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh the horror! Imagine, the life of an endangered species worth more than a millionaire’s view. What is the world coming to?

    • Buck Dangle says:

      Thank you for being the voice of reason and defending the Mega Rich and their beach-front homes. It’s about time we look after them and their interests. #ThankYou #Blessed

  20. Incredulous says:

    Once again highlights the selfishness and total lack of care for the environment (or anyone else I would imagine by extension) for these kinds of people: “I don’t care about killing turtles because it my slightly impact upon the view from my house by making it slightly dimmer”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Rich people have the right to do whatever they want as money talks and bullsh&% walks! CPA is always looking out for the Cayman Islands.

    • Anonymous says:

      This from a culture that eats turtles because it’s your right as a Caymanian. Who would listen to you?


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