Over 50 acres of primary habitat under threat

| 25/10/2023 | 49 Comments
Drone imagery of the application site showing the pristine primary habitat within the site. Silver Thatch Palms are slow-growing trees, and the height of the palms indicates the vegetation is very old (Source: DoE, 2023)

(CNS): An application for a 184-lot subdivision, including 180 residential lots and a road parcel, puts as much as 50 acres of rare pristine habitat at risk in East End, the DoE has warned. The application, due to be heard by the Central Planning Authority today (Wednesday), also poses a risk to the water lens and the critically endangered blue iguana.

Invicta Construction is seeking a zoning variance from the current low-density residential to medium-density so it can sell the lots more cheaply and pave the way for affordable homes on two parcels of land.

The applicants, who plan to construct an undisclosed number of houses on the site and sell many of the lots to others, said that this variance was of “paramount importance”. It would allow the landowners “to reduce parcel sizes by approximately 33% and lower the price per parcel, making “home-ownership within reach for a broader segment of potential purchasers”.

But these low-cost homes would present a very high cost to the environment.

In its submissions to the CPA on behalf of the National Conservation Council, the experts at the Department of Environment urged the board to decline planning permission because of the significant threat the project poses to Grand Cayman’s dwindling natural resources.

The site consists of a mixture of primary dry forest, woodland and shrubland, which are of high ecological value and provide a biodiverse habitat for native wildlife, including Grand Cayman blue iguanas. Part of the application site is also located over the East End water lens.

This habitat existed in its natural state long before humans and contains many endemic and ecologically important species. However, it is in severe decline and becoming a scarce, highly threatened resource because of the amount of land being used for human development.

This is a subdivision application, and no plans have been presented for actual development. The DoE said it does not support speculative or whole-scale clearing of subdivision sites.

“Land clearing should be reserved until the development of individual lots is imminent,” the experts said. “This allows the opportunity for the individual lot owners to retain as much native vegetation as possible. Native vegetation is best suited for the habitat conditions of the site and requires less maintenance, which makes it a very cost-effective choice.”

In its overall summary, the DoE said it does not support the CPA’s position to approve the clearing and filling of all lots, regardless of imminent development, when granting permission for subdivisions

“Natural habitat and native vegetation can be incorporated into parks, play areas, and amenity spaces to provide multiple benefits to a community, but that opportunity is lost when the area is prematurely cleared,” the team said. “There are subdivisions which were cleared and filled over 30 years ago and have never been developed, resulting in biodiversity loss, proliferation of invasive species and habitat fragmentation with no social or economic benefit to offset it.”

This particular application is not only a threat to this untouched habitat but also part of the natural range of the blue iguanas that have been released into the Colliers Wilderness Reserve. The iguanas, which are unique to Grand Cayman and a valuable tourism asset, are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List and a protected species under the National Conservation Act.

“Blue Iguanas typically live solitary, territorial lives. As they recover from the brink of extinction, and reproduce and seek to establish territory, the urbanisation of valuable primary habitat continues to be a concern for the future of our wild population that rely on this habitat to forage, shelter and nest,” the DoE explained.

Even though this potential massive development will directly threaten the iguanas, neither the NCC nor the DoE has the power to direct that this application be refused. The DoE can only make recommendations, which the CPA can ignore. If planning permission is granted, the DoE experts are requesting to be consulted so that they can at least help the developers avoid killing any of the blue iguanas.

While the DoE said they appreciate the need for affordable housing, the need for a subdivision of this density in this area has not been demonstrated.

“The Government is actively working on an updated Development Plan for the country, which is to consider population growth and sustainable development,” the team said. “Without an updated plan, a rezone of this scale is not justifiable. In the absence of an updated Development Plan providing a strategic framework for development, particularly large-scale proposals, the DoE strongly recommends that before determining this planning application, a comprehensive review of the ‘need’ for the subdivision of more parcels is undertaken.”

The DoE said the overall impact of such a development on the infrastructure and population of East End should be considered.

While the DoE experts made it clear they do not support the application, they urged the CPA to impose conditions to minimise the impact on the pristine habitat and protect the blue iguanas if planning permission is granted. They recommended that any land clearing, excavation, filling or development should be the subject of a separate consultation with the National Conservation Council.

In its presentation of the proposed subdivision, the planning department stated that the CPA needed to consider the zoning, lot sizes, and road connections, noting that two of the lots are not perpendicular to the road. It also urged the CPA to consider comments from the various government agencies and the objection that has been received.

The objectors raised both the density of the development and the increase in traffic for the area.

See the application in the CPA meeting agenda for 25 October in the CNS Library.

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Comments (49)

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  1. robinson crosoe says:

    Every single person in Cayman is living on a piece of land that was once pristine.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is exactly why I as a born and raised Caymanian refuse to have kids at age 25,

      All unna let Fin and those stupid developments pass, but the second someone wants to build affordable housing for me to raise a family in, unna b!tch about the trees and birds.

      Fk it man I going enjoy my disposable income at brunch. All unna politicians and rich families done sold out Cayman to expats so FOK unna Caymanian birth rate. Cayman na for us anymore and IT IS YOU TO BLAME.

      I wish I was born to a silver spoon and inherited 100 acres of land like unna politicians. I would use it for EXACTLY this – affordable housing for young Caymanians ONLY so that we won’t be outnumbered here

      But anyways, carry on and allow 900 expat kids to take up public school slots while some Caymanian kids couldn’t get placement.

      But I must buss my ass to have kids? HAH. I’m ashamed to be Caymanian whenever I sit in traffic because I KNOW 3/4 the people in front of me na born here. Sorry, but I’m not sorry. Unna can go back home, but here is all that I have.

      I na really like kenny, but boy, immigration reform NOW for real yo.

      • Anonymous says:

        You type like an idiot. Try typing English instead of fake slang. Are you supposed to have more credibility because of your slang typing? LOL

    • Anonymous says:

      For all these haters who are so pro-development, this week the Palm Beach County Commissioners rejected a request from a huge developer (GL Homes) to change a big area of acreage west of Boca Raton from agricultural to residential/commercial so they could build a new development. They were offering land swaps and workforce housing in the proposal package. Residents complained that this would increase traffic, effect there current way of life, strain the environment and destroy water catchment areas plus once the agricultural protection was changed/removed it would create precedent that would open the door to the further destruction of all the remaining agricultural areas. This shows how voters influenced the politician, unlike in Cayman where this CPA board does whatever the hell they want and if they get any push back then they use our tax dollars to fight till they get there own way. Time for these CPA people to be removed and not heard from ever again. This article can be found on the Palm Beach Post online news.

    • The time has Come says:

      There must be and there will be a Revolution to end this confusion. What Caymanians really want VS what Fireigners think that we should have or where we should be.

      Asa people we are placid in nature snd looks like we fraid to express ourselves forthrightly on matters which are and will continue to impact our present and future living in these Islands.

      Heed the Clarion call Caymanians face up to your obligations to maintain our home snd heritage together, even if it means coming Oita ya shell and doing what needs to be done to regain our country, our peace of mind, our tranquility , our roads, our environment , beaches and yes our future.

      Why is it that we fail to get up and stand up for our rights?. Is it lack of self esteem, or fraid I’d of foreigners who have better jobs, better homes etc and who plant themselves and bring in others to swell their numbers. Too is the syndrome of our own leaders who have sold us out time and time again for their own aggrandizement, the almighty dollar snd yes their children and their children’s brighter future.

      How much longer will We the people allow this stealing of our very soul, food, culture and everything we hold dear. Our dream of owning your own home swept away by the Real Estate Moguls local and yes fareiners with that Status handle we have bestowed on them and others who have made sure our children can’t pay for land or a home at decent prices.

      While I’m at it, what s about the judicial system full up with foreigners who give bail to child molesters and who knows if as ll a dem really care about true Justice for cases tried and judged upon sometimes make you wonder . What about all a these work permits which now find caymanians totally and unequivocally outnumbered in our land , causing us to rejoice wildly when we come out and find more than two caymanians in one place.

      All in all the message should be clear by now we don’t just need to be “woke” as some politicians and would be ones would have you believe, we need to pull up our pants, skirts etc snd stand up against the incompetence of government from whom a lot of these ills mentioned stem from. We need to assess ourselves in our jobs, doing the work to the best of our ability and demanding quality pay for quality work. We need to encourage each other and help each other in whatever way is needed so that we can at last stand together, work together and unite as a people. Fareiners come here and support each other while we well you know what we do at present but this MUST change.

      Look deep within people are you satisfied with the life we living, we can only be better if we recognize where we are what got us here snd what it will take to put things right. Choosing our Representatives in Parliamentv carefully is one big step ahead, having a better election process that provides We the people with the ability to say who will lead and who will be Ministers because of their qualities and not back room dealings is another important aspect znd so many more.

      All I have said is truth snd if it has offended anyone that’s your problem. You know why?, because it’s only the truth being told and listened to and acted upon that’s will make a positive change in our lives and In our future.
      May God strengthen us as we go forward .

  2. Anonymous says:

    The CPA is nothing more than a political tool to carry out the bidding of the greedy. I know of at least one member who is paralyzed into thinking of himself as having superior intelligence. That character is anti the environment and all for mass development. He utters the most disrespectful statements against staff of the DoE who are working hard to protect our environment. All the while grabbing whatever he can from government for free. Living high as a king at our country’s expense and posting the evidence on social media for all to see! Talk about an entitlement mentality hell bent on destroying our environment to enable unbridled development by greedy developers. A person of that mindset should not even be considered as a member of the CPA!

  3. Mr. Sic 2 my stomach says:

    “Land clearing should be reserved until the development of individual lots is imminent,” the experts said. “This allows the opportunity for the individual lot owners to retain as much native vegetation as possible. Native vegetation is best suited for the habitat conditions of the site and requires less maintenance, which makes it a very cost-effective choice.”

    In its overall summary, the DoE said it does not support the CPA’s position to approve the clearing and filling of all lots, regardless of imminent development, when granting permission for subdivisions

    “Natural habitat and native vegetation can be incorporated into parks, play areas, and amenity spaces to provide multiple benefits to a community, but that opportunity is lost when the area is prematurely cleared,” the team said

    was this shared with the minister responsible for the low income housing in North Side.

    shame on him. Wayne…..sustainability…..more like shake ground. can’t even import naive trees grown in Florida to replace our own we bulldozed. what about the kids man. what are we teaching them. God help us. Cayman gone ‘n left.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Cement and pave everything today and nothing left to develop for tomorrow. What is to happen to the next generations?

  6. Anon says:

    The east needs to be developed. It’s barren out there.

    • Eliza says:

      The east is the beautiful side of the island, the west is trashed.
      What the east needs is some huge national parks, and better environmental protection for its unique and spectacular woodlands and shrublands.
      Establish some big parks, keeping irreplaceable natural space for future generations. We should have at least 15% of our land as nature reserves, with public access for all to enjoy them. That’s the international norm we should strive for.
      Gov’t needs to act now, before the east is covered in concrete, and the magic of our wild spaces is gone forever.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I mean where else are the ppl going to go? Remove some ppl then so we can save the environment

  8. Ambassador of Absurdistan says:

    Just Another Day in Absurdistan

  9. Anonymous says:

    The only green Caymanians care about is the stuff they smoke and the dollars in their pocket. Sell outs.

    • Matthias says:

      Yow talk wa you know. You obviously don’t know acting about smoking weed “ Green weed”. Boy/gal go sit down.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The ONLY issue any environmentalist in Cayman should be focused on right now is the dump. The dump is an environmental disaster happening every single day and no-one seems to care.

    • Anonymous says:

      you’re right, instead of a huge new sub-division this could be the site of the new dump

    • Anonymous says:

      Thats because it’s not trendy! We can only support environmental things that are plastered all over social media etc.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Funny how when it’s Caymanians behind a dangerous project like this, the names are not present. Were this DART or some other foreign fiend, it would have been blasted to the heavens.
    Based on ‘word on the street’, this approval is assured already, and pre-selling is already in high gear. Sorry DoE, this one is a forgone conclusion especially with the CPA having ‘hands in the pot’ from the start.
    I am Caymanian and I DO NOT SUPPORT this.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m slightly confused about who benefits from this. Declaration of (non-) interest: I’m an expat on a work permit. I don’t want permanent residence: I respect that the Islands are full. This development is irrelevant to me. Far more importantly though, I don’t see how further development benefits locals?

    I’m not even sure that there’s much appeal to stay over tourists. Cayman is already too expensive for most tourists, in large part because a bloated, incompetent and probably corrupt CIG and civil service/de facto welfare scheme are funded by 20%/22% import taxes on everything entering. My children like it here, but that’s because they are young enough to enjoy the beach. For tourists though, once you’ve done the Botanical Gardens and the Turtle Farm etc once, that’s pretty much it. It’s difficult to justify Cayman as a repeat holiday destination.

    Cayman is now a [far] more expensive version of Miami. If tourists want that, they can go to Miami; if they want undeveloped islands, there are cheaper options. Cayman should forget tourism, and focus on increasing offshore work. The government hasn’t screwed that up yet (though incompetent regulators – CIMA, we’re looking at you – are doing their best).

    So, back to this development, and development more generally: it’s not for expats, and it’s not for tourists. It’ll almost certainly be too expensive for locals, so cui bono?

  13. watcher says:

    Par for the course.

    We enable foreign (and sometimes local) developers to come in and overbuild, often to the future harm of our resources and ourselves.

    I don’t blame government, not really; they work within the historic system which we have enabled. You can look at nearly everywhere else in the world and understand that humanity will build and make tons of money until everything is used up.


  14. Anonymous says:

    darn it with all these arguments in favor or against I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t behoove the obvious that all these land development disputes should be presented to the honorable Sir Dwayne The Rock Seymour an expert in real estate development, the environment and nature for his direction and insight. Just like a ship needs a captain and Cayman needs Seymour!

  15. Anonymous says:

    ha ha ha! money almist always wins…ZZZZZ

  16. Anonymous says:

    When will these thick and greedy developers realise the value of natural habitat over sprawling urbanisation using irresponsible planning and wholesale land clearing methods?
    The DoE via the NCC need to be empowered so they can dictate how these large scale developments can planned with minimum possible impact to natural habitat and resources.
    The promise of affordable homes is just a carrot. Besides what they mean by affordable, any firm figures on final price? Absolutely not, they couldn’t be held to it anyway. And nice touch to request a zoning variance for reducing lot size to allow for reduced lot prices. Does anyone believe this will end in a reduction in lot prices proportional to the reduction in parcel size? Sounds like it’s an opportunity to optimise profit.
    Stop this madness!

  17. Anonymous says:

    all you bleeding heart cry babies need to either buy these people out or shut the he’ll up. CPA please do not let the communists try to force there way on us folks who just want work and a chance to make some money. Ram it thru IP

  18. Anonymous says:

    Invicta will not be lowering the price of the land. They will be reducing the size of the lots to under 1/4 acre and sell it for the same or higher price per square foot than the current market price for a quarter acre. To pretend they are doing this to help lower income people is a lie. They will simply get more lots and sell them for a higher price per square foot than they would have sold a 1/4 acre lot for.

  19. Anonymous says:

    When will Cayman Gov wake up? You are destroying your island! Do you even understand what’s happening underwater, around the island? Stony coral is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s bad enough that warming waters are killing off the reefs, but destruction on land is only adding to it. Plus, where’s the viable plan to preserve endangered coral? Seriously- you have none. Is the endgame to have a completely stagnant ocean there? Cayman’s ocean is dying and nobody up top seems to care. Sad

  20. DiverDeb says:

    Left to builders, Cayman will lose all its beauty and glory!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Rise so high, yet so far to fall
    A plan of dignity and balance for all
    Political breakthrough, euphoria’s high
    More borrowed money, more borrowed time
    Backed in a corner, caught up in the race
    Means to an end ended in disgrace
    Perspective is lost in the spirit of the chase

  22. Anonymous says:

    feel sorry for anyone that buys into this poverty trap….stuck in the middle of nowhere and will be at least 30 min car drive from basic amenities…never mind a 90 min commute each way from george town.
    there should be no more sub-divisions like this without a comprhensive island-wide development plan.
    thanks for nothing pact.

    • Anonymous says:

      You call it a poverty trap. I call it a reservation for Caymanians. They want us all on reservations away from the rich foreigners.

    • Anonymous says:

      I love that they have 180 residential lots and 4 public and not one for a school, a nursery, a supermarket, a bar, a restaurant etc.

      Just some resident poor people (poor being subjective hear) living in the backend of nowhere after buying into a soulless empty sprawling wasteland.

      The few people that get there houses built should be easy pickings for the East End thieves. Living there will look like a horror film i’m certain. No sidewalks, no public streetlights etc.

      Sums up the problem with these Islands and our Government perfectly.

  23. Anonymous says:

    more low rise urban sprawl???…probably the worst waste of land you could think of.
    just another day in wonderland…..zzzzzzzzzz

  24. Anonymous says:

    Once again, this is PRIVATE land, not public land. If there is a desire to maintain land in its native state, then the public, or a group of desiring private individuals, should purchase land.

    Otherwise, an owner/purchaser of private land should not be restricted from clearing for development.

  25. This Land is Our Land keep it Safe says:

    To the we believe Truly caring Caymsniansvon the CPA , if you value this land our forefathers have passed on to us do not approve any more developments that will destroy our eco system. Come on fellas use ya Collin sense above whatever else is motivating you or is being pressed upon you. Let’s leave these islands a better place for future generations. Do it if you truly are Caymanians . We waiting to see.!

  26. Anonymous says:

    stacking us like sardines for the future. This island should have had another 500 yrs of sustainable development, where people could enjoy the privilege of a nice yard space for kids and pets. Instead we are steady importing everything bad in regards to cultures and ways of life and adopting it to our own detriment. I feel now in the next 50 yrs this place will be unrecognizable, not against development an opportunity but this doesn’t benefit the indigenous in the least, we are being colonized all over again.

    • Anonymous says:

      in 50 years most of this will be underwater.

    • Anonymous says:

      And you have allowed the re-colonization by not changing the way lawmakers are elected. The pool of candidates needs to be widened, or else the same thing is going to keep happening over and over. Time to give a chance to people who love CI but simply haven’t been born here but have showed their dedication by jumping through all the hoops and making all the sacrifices required to become Caymanian Status Holders. Otherwise, stop complaining — it’s the sons of the soil who have created the mess and have made sure they benefit.

    • Anonymous says:

      ” colonized all over again” – I think you must be confusing us with somewhere else. You really need to learn the history of the Cayman Islands before posting.

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