CPA turns down 12-storey 7MB condo tower

| 11/04/2024 | 62 Comments
Aqua Bay, artist’s rendition

(CNS): An application for a condo tower on Seven Mile Beach has been refused planning permission by the Central Planning Authority because it is too tall. What was described by objectors as a “monstrosity” that would change the entire character of the quieter northern end of the Cayman Islands’ famous beach was rejected because the board found that the application for the redevelopment of Aqua Bay into a ten-storey building was actually for twelve storeys and the CPA does not have the discretion to waive building height restrictions.

According to the minutes published on the Department of Planning website this week following the hearing last month, the CPA found that the below-level parking area was not “below grade” or ancillary to the apartments but a “primary component of the development”. It therefore counted as a storey and was not exempt.

The developers had also argued that one of two roof-top levels should also not count as a storey but the CPA disagreed. The board found that the “level labelled Roof Deck Plan… includes areas covered by the floor of the mechanical level above. As such, this area is a storey….”

This means the tower would be twelve storeys, two more than current regulations allow. The CPA stated that it could not waive regulations relating to the maximum height of ten stories unless a level meets the exempted criteria.

Butler Development Group had applied on behalf of the owners of the existing 21 condos to redevelop the complex, which was built in the 1980s, into a glass and steel tower containing 38 apartments. The application attracted significant opposition in the community and dozens of formal objections from those living within 1,000 feet of the proposed development.

While this has been seen as a small victory for the neighbours and the wider community, there are concerns that with so many applications now for taller buildings, the character of this stretch of Seven Mile Beach remains under threat. And it does so in the face of successive governments’ failure to address a catalogue of problems associated with Cayman’s outdated planning laws and the much-needed review of the national development plan.

In contravention of the law, the development plan has not been properly reviewed for more than 25 years. Local lawyer Kate McClymont, who represented more than three dozen objectors during the application hearing last month, argued before the board that they should not grant permission for the tower, which the objectors said was “strikingly out of keeping with the surrounding area”, in the absence of an updated development plan considering the wider implications.

She had argued that it should have been obvious to the CPA that the “scale of the over-development is so egregious that it breaches even the generous tolerance” in the planning regulations. She said that, given the radical change to the area such a project would bring and that it would set a precedent for further redevelopment of low-rise condos into high-density development, the CPA shouldn’t “sleepwalk into permitting” the application without wider consultation and strategic planning.

Under the law, the CPA, in partnership with the planning department, is responsible for reviewing the National Development Plan every five years. McClymont argued that the board had not conducted that exercise since the current plan was rolled out in 1997 and has therefore been in breach of its statutory obligations for more than two decades.

See the full minutes in the CNS Library.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (62)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    No Exemptions = No Objections.

    Play within the rules. Butler should know the rules.

    Land plot is tiny. Don’t hurt 7 mile beach any more.

    Think of your grandchildren, not your wallets Aqua Bay.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure if everyone is understanding this situation correctly.

    This is normal course of action. The developer puts in his first application with everything he wants and if the public doesn’t kick up a stink, he gets everything..If the public does complain, back up plan comes out, dollars roll and the CPA gives full approval..

    Same $hit, different day!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why is it that these meeting cannot be publicly broadcasted on TV like everywhere else in the world. Why can’t we have Government in the Sunshine like Australia does? What do these politically appointed boards politicians and the politicians have to hide? If they are just following the Laws of the country, why not make these meetings air publicly?

  4. Anonymous says:

    First how did the plans get this far?
    Is this just the normal ‘procedure’ to deny first then surprisingly the members pass it!
    Waiting in eager anticipation to hear how the plans will be passed in its entirety.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Height is one aspect of concern, but what about the fresh water pumping, black water waste material, power utlities, fire safety, suppression systems, and traffic needs of all these extra people taking roost, here and there, without any congruent multi-agency development plan? Grand Cayman’s, very simple SMB layout map, should be much more sophisticated when it comes to the planning parameters of urban development. We need a new, better qualified CPA, where developers no longer feel confident submitting goony proposals, hoping they’ll squeak through when nobody is looking. Thank you Kate, and those that hired her – good choice.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, and what about the additional drain on resources, and sewage, and the load upon the roads and……. and……….

      Agree. We need a new and enlightened CPA. A group of people who won’t cave or cater to wealthy foreign developers.

      • Anonymous says:

        Totally agree with your sentiment. However, the members of the CPA are appointed by our politicians. If we want a new and enlightened CPA, we will first need new and enlightened politicians who aren’t owned by developers.

        • Anonymous says:

          Man, did you say a mouthful. Backatcha. Politicians that aren’t indentured to the whims of developers.

          What a world
          What a world

          • Anonymous says:

            Don’t blame the developers, they should be allowed to do what the law allows.
            Politicians need to maintain an income stream to meet the needs of the community in providing services such as infrastructure, police, schools, hospitals etc.
            Pay income tax, which will replace the funds generated by development , and that should make the problem of development go away right..?

  6. Anonymous says:

    IF the community truly does not want ‘tall’ buildings then the community needs to have their MLA (West Bay North) move a change to the Planning Regulations (changed every few months as it is so getting them changed is easy, for some things) to lower the maximum height level in their area. That would be democratic, right?

    Perhaps max 5 storeys north of Kimpton?

  7. Anonymous says:

    total non-story. minor modifications will be made and it will get built anyway.
    would not be surprised if this was appealed or challenged in court and gets over turned.

  8. South Sounder says:

    The April 10, 2024 Cayman Islands Cabinet Meeting Summary noted that Cabinet approved the issuance of drafting instructions to amend the Development and Planning Act (2021 Revision) and the Development and Planning Regulations (2024 Revision).

    We all need to point out how imperative it is to acknowledge the necessity of integrating a comprehensive climate change strategy into any proposed development plan.

    The Cayman Islands, with its porous limestone foundation, faces significant environmental challenges exacerbated by unchecked development. The strain on our already overcapacity landfill, lack of recycling and the exponential growth in construction without a requirement to incorporate renewable energy or to adopt reasonable coastal construction setbacks and a national stormwater management plan further exacerbate the concerns we all talk about such as quality of life, affordability, and health costs. Water pollution and the degradation of our marine environment adds another layer of complexity to these challenges.

    Failure to address these multifaceted challenges risks long-term ecological and societal consequences. Therefore, any future planning initiatives must prioritize sustainability, waste management, and environmental stewardship to ensure the well-being of our islands and future generations.

    If an MP denies global warming, they’re not just burying their heads in the sand; they’re digging our islands into a deeper environmental crisis.

    So everyone needs to ask:
    Will the proposed amendments to the Planning Regs incorporate robust climate change strategies from appropriate experts to address these pressing concerns?

    • Anonymous says:

      For the past 25 years changes to our planning legislation have been for the benefit of the development cabal not the people of the Cayman Islands.

      I agree with your concerns but unless the development lobby has suddenly put robust climate change strategies at the top of their wish list I think it is extremely unlikely that these amendments will have anything to do with climate change. That would require wholesale change in the planning department and in our Parliament.

    • Anonymous says:

      Global warming is cyclical. Whether humans were here or not. It doesn’t matter what we do, the Earth will warm as we are in a warming cycle. Zoom out amigo. In a few hundred thousand years it will be cooling to worry about.

      CNS: This is a half truth that leaves out the fact that humans are causing this cycle of global warming and that it is happening much much faster than previous cycles. Yes, the Earth will recover in a few million years but that’s not really going to help our grandchildren.

      NASA: How is Today’s Warming Different from the Past?

      Royal Society: Climate is always changing. Why is climate change of concern now?

      MIT: Has there been climate change before?

      • Anonymous says:

        CNS that’s not even remotely accurate. Humans are not causing global warming. That’s a terrible line of text to leave unqualified..We may very well be adding to it. However the fact remains anything we do or refrain from doing is essentially a wash in the big scheme of things. But you do you.

        CNS: Well, we’ll just let the readers decide if NASA, the Royal Society, the folks at MIT and every other major scientific group know what they’re talking about or if they should believe an anonymous numpty. Nobody denies that the Earth’s temperature fluctuates, but this usually takes at the very least many thousands of years, not hundreds. Everyone except for fringe idiots now agrees that this very rapid rise is being caused by human activity.

        • Anonymous says:

          CNS that’s not true either. They held ice fairs on the River Thames only four hundred or so years ago. Climate is constantly changing.

          As to what we should do, CO2 forms 0.04% of the earth’s atmosphere. I’d love to know how much of that is generated by Cayman: doubtless an infinitesimally small fraction of a tiny, tiny percentage. Our contribution to whatever it is we’re supposed to be stopping it will always be as significant as a fart in a hurricane: a particularly short, silent one, too.

          CNS: Answering the second paragraph first, which is irrelevant to the previous conversation, but hey ho. You’re not arguing with anyone so I don’t know what point you’re trying to make. Apart from the fact that everyone must play their part and no single island or city or town or village is going to make a difference on their own, yes, we are all aware that a teeny group of islands is not causing global warming and cannot stop it. However, the emphasis in the Cayman Islands is to prepare for climate change, not stop it. This has been said over and over ad nauseam.

          Before we get to the first paragraph, I just want to make sure you understand that you are trying to argue with climate scientists who have spent a lifetime studying climate and climate change, not with me. I’m just passing on their findings. You get that, right?

          Yes, there was the Mini Ice Age in the Middle ages, roughly from the 15th to the 19th centuries. However, this is not considered a true ice age as it mainly focused on North America and Europe. There were anomalies elsewhere but they didn’t all happen at the same time during this period. Overall the Northern Hemisphere probably cooled by less than 1C, though it was more than that in some areas, Britain for example.

          Interestingly, though there is still discussion as to the cause of the MIA, one theory is that the arrival of Europeans in North American, which caused the death of as many as 60 million people, may have triggered or exacerbated it. The theory goes that by wiping out whole populations, mostly through disease, land that had been used for cultivation was once again free for wild plants to grow, which released more oxygen than the cultivated crops, causing a dip in CO2.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wasting your time arguing with CNS they are about as far left and woke as anyone else. They have also appointed themselves climate experts. and if you don’t agree you are a ‘fringe idiot’ as they say.

            CNS: Science isn’t right wing or left wing. It’s just science. The trouble with today’s bonkers extreme right wing is that they are so brainwashed that every time science does not agree with the fringe idiot mantra, they call it “far left” and “woke”. We’re not climate experts but we listen to what the climate experts are saying. You should try it.

            • Anonymous says:

              As a Caymanian scientist, science doesn’t give a rass about politics, who you are, or what sky fairy you believe in.

              The sky is “blue” because we measure the light at a wavelength and can agree on it. That’s why you get called an idiot off the bat when you tell actual scientists “no, it’s red” or that the planet is flat.

              Thanks for correcting the misinformation CNS.

          • Anonymous says:

            CNS believes that humans caused the ice age. Lol. Probably believe in God too.

            CNS: Reading comprehension is hard for some people and I don’t think you’ve got the hang of it. I was trying to be as brief and simplistic as possible and I don’t think I can dumb it down any further. This may be beyond you: Evidence for the Postconquest Demographic Collapse of the Americas in Historical CO2 Levels. However, some people may find it interesting.

            Also: ‘Great Dying’ in Americas disturbed Earth’s climate

            Or an easier read: 50 million deaths in the New World drove cooling in the Little Ice Age

            • Anonymous says:

              I have better things to do than waste my time reading your diatribes.

              6:14pm has already said all that needed to be said.

              CNS: You have better things to do than let facts get in the way of your brainwashing. OK.

            • Anonymous says:

              These the same scientist that told people smoking was good for them?

              Or the same scientist that push large pharma drugs on kids?

              CNS, it’s okay to be skeptical, you aren’t always right (and neither am I)

              There is no absolute truths, yet. Science changes. Remember the ozone layer?

              CNS: I think you’re confused by what the science community says and what a few paid-for shrills say. Regarding smoking, if you’re interested read this and scroll down to “THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY IN CRISIS MODE”

              There was a global crisis with the ozone layer but for once, every country got together and fixed it. See What happened to the world’s ozone hole? You should really read it.

              The big pharmaceutical companies are another conversation but many children are alive today because of modern medicine.

              Being skeptical is good, but closing your mind to facts is not. Yes, science changes but some science is settled.

      • Ver says:

        Even if it is true, you can’t deny mind boggling pollution.
        All bodies of water, air, space, soil, flora, fauna and human bodies are polluted beyond its innate capacity to detoxify.
        Everything is interconnected, so Common sense should tell you that when everything is polluted beyond its ability to restore balance, climate IS affected as well. One way or another.

    • Anonymous says:

      And the answer would be: no,they won’t
      It is in my opinion that Cayman has The Most inept government in the World.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just modify the plans. Drop a story and rework the roof so that it is not considered a story and/or rework the bottom parking.

    The current development is at its end of its life.

    • Anonymous says:

      You do know that was the plan all along right? Those plans been ready for a while now.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can you please explain how a building but in the the late 80’s be at the end of it’s useful life? My Dad still lives in his 1987 house quite comfortably. As far as I’m aware Buckingham Palace was built before the 1980’s and I see no public plans to replace that.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sand used in concrete/cement up and down SMB in the 80’s and 90’s is rusting the iron tie rods and one day we’re going to have a collapsing structure. Still astonishing the older structures get insurance

    • Anonymous says:

      orrrr just dont build i giant monstrosity of a building? crazy i know…

  10. Anonymous says:

    According to the CPA minutes, whether or not a ‘storey’ is above or below grade is determined by how high the developer can bank dirt within 5 ft of the building. It has nothing to do with the average height above sea level of a property.

    That is just one of dozens of examples of how our development and planning legislation has been corrupted in recent years in order to facilitate the developer cabal’s destruction of our country.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you to CNS for publishing a link to the CPA’s deliberations.
    Having read the CPA’s minutes, it appears to me that the CPA would have approved this ‘monstrosity’ were it not for the technical defects in the application pointed out by the objectors attorney. Nothing in their decision points to anything done by the CPA in protecting the environment or the interests of the Caymanian people. Well done to lady attorney acting for the objectors.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hallelujah. CPA actually applying the law. Miracles do happen.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Many people would have said:

    In 1775 that “the character” of the United States was threatened by George Washington

    In 1862, that “the character” of the United States was threatened by the abilition of slavery.

    Today, that “the character” of the United States would be threatened by the repeal of the second amendment (right to bear arms) .

    The point is that one cannot conclude anything about whether something is good or bad solely from whether or not it “changes the character”. This is a good example of circular logic.

    “Changing the character of anything is bad. Any change constitutes a change in character. Therefore any change is bad.”

    So what you’re saying is you don’t like it so it’s bad, and you can tell it’s bad because you don’t like it.

    How about asking what’s in the best interests of the community and having an honest, open discussion. Because if nothing is ever allowed to change from how it currently is…. we are completely and utterly f@#ked.

    Instead what we have is “changes are inherently awful unless they are changes I would like to see” like a higher minimum wage or more solar energy. Those changes are fine. But higher buildings…. f@#$ no!

    Give me sprawl or give me death!

    • Caymanian says:

      In actual fact the “community” spoke by way of complaints. I believe it’s the developers you are siding with here not the “community”

      And when do you want to test your non circular logic? After you build it? As a logic minded person you should test things before you build because after construction is not when you register regrets.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully it is done, the project is not financially viable at 10 stories. You have to replace the 21 units for the existing owners. The builders has to cover his costs and profit with selling the other 17 units. If you lose 7 or 8 units you can’t make it work.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think the island is fast becoming over developed and loosing its lovely appeal. The planning departments first question going forward with any new larger development should be how with this going to help or benefit the Caymanian people. If it just benefits the wealthy expats and foreign worker it needs to be turned down. Infrastructure needs to catch up with all the growth.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately the growth pays for the infrastructure to catch up. We don’t tax the current economy enough for infrastructure to keep pace with it.

  16. Anon says:

    But the problem now is, they can just revise the plans according to what the CPA rejected. Unfortunately, there is still a chance this gets approved, just within the limits. Keep your letters of objection and Kate on retainer.

  17. Anonymous says:

    LOL. Time to release the real plans now that this test case has been turned down.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Mr CPA Chairman, get this project passed so we can have many more as we need all the high paying jobs and rich people moving here. We need more development, not less.

    • Anonymous says:

      The high paying jobs lol. Only high paying jobs in this are for the developer – adding hundreds more low paid construction workers to build the thing for absentee second/ third/fourth home property holders isnt going to generate jack for the local economy (other than the building supply companies of course).

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t forget the low salaried “room maids” to clean up after them” , who definitely won’t be home grown! Will this insatiable developer ever get enough? Someone please tell him that he cannot take it with him.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a joke, the CPA clowns will get it thru one way or the other, just stay tuned.

  19. Anonymous says:

    But for the fact that the objectors were relatively wealthy and organized, and were smart enough to hire an attorney who has distinguished herself as very capable in successfully appealing errant decisions of the planning authorities, I suspect that the outcome would have been entirely different even though the plans would have been exactly the same.

    • Anonymous says:

      Were there any generational Caymanian objectors, or were these all NIMBYs who destroyed the pristine Cayman shoreline themselves for their own development a few year ago?
      Seems a bit disingenuous.
      Not a fan of this development, but seems like a rich (foreign) people fight.

    • Anonymous says:

      The CPA will pass almost anything, ipso facto, this errant proposal originated from an experienced developer, Butler Properties, who certainly ought to have known better, but for the intervention of Kate and her mindful clients.

  20. Anonymous says:

    This was likely a good decision, but will it stay this way?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Finally some good news and a sensible decision by the CPA


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