South Sounders fight canal

Residents of South Sound vigorously objected to a new development in their community during a community meeting held last Thursday.

Canal fight

From left, Consuelo Ebanks, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Berna Cummins address the meeting.
Photo: Basia Piora

About 150 people showed up at the meeting, during which Burns Conolly, lead architect for the proposed Emerald Sound development, gave an overview of the project.

Residents expressed their concerns for over-development on Grand Cayman in general, but also specifically about the inclusion of a canal that would access the South Sound from the project.

‘It’s not that I’m against the development per se,’ said Ray Farrington, who currently resides on the proposed project’s western boundary.

‘It’s the breaching of the coastline, the realignment of the road, and the implications of this work on plans other developers might have in the works in other parts of Grand Cayman.’

Resident Katrina Jurn was more forceful on the subject.

‘Pretty much over my dead body will I see a canal go through there,’ she said.

She like others expressed particular concern over the outcomes of possible silting from the canal and of increased boat traffic on the South Sound marine environment.

‘You may try and justify to yourselves this is not going to have a huge impact on the environment but you are not fooling anybody in this room and anybody in the public,’ she told the developers, backed by a cheering crowd.

The South Sound residents at the meeting raised a wide range of concerns related to the project’s size and scope, calling the project a ‘violation’ which will have a huge impact on the South Sound environment.

The crowd’s disapproving jeers caused Mr. Conolly to momentarily break his composure.

‘Why don’t you just start throwing tomatoes now, then?’ he asked at one particularly rowdy juncture.

The developers of Emerald Sound, RC Estates, say the 82-lot residential project will benefit South Sound through neighbourhood beautification, restoration of hurricane-damaged mangroves and road improvements, including a new bridge along South Sound road, which will span the proposed canal.

If approved, the canal would become the first man-made waterway that flows into body of water next to Grand Cayman other than the North Sound.

Mr. Conolly defended the canal and coastal works plans, saying the Department of Environment has been working with the developers to ensure the canal’s impact is minimal.

‘And we have one of the leading marine engineering firms in the U.S. on the consulting team and have already incorporated technical recommendations from them, even at this early stage,’ he said.

Some attendees challenged the Emerald Sound developers to post a $5million bond to cover any possible side effects the construction of the canal has on the Sound’s waters and shoreline.

Speaking about development in Grand Cayman in general, Mr. Conolly said the government needed the revenues.

‘Until we find a new mechanism for funding our government and funding our government services other than development, we are in a catch-22,’ he said.

‘I hate to be the person that says this, but until we find a new way of raising money other than planning fees, construction work, all these types of things that you need the revenue from to support the Government, we have a major problem. We have to look at that as a country, that is a national debate that should be started,’ he said.

Among the attendees of the meeting were Leader of Government Business and Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts and Planning Director Kenneth Ebanks.

Mr. Tibbetts explained to meeting attendees that for the Emerald Sound project, there were two applications submitted, one to the Central Planning Authority for permission for the project which is on the land side, and a separate application for a coastal works license which goes through the Ministry in charge of the Department of Environment.

He said the coastal works license needs to be granted by the Cabinet before the CPA will entertain the whole Emerald Sound application.

‘When the application is put in for the coastal works licence, it has to be advertised so that concerned people can come and inspect the plans, and if they have any difficulties with it they can object to it,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘And when a decision is made, it can be appealed by whichever side is aggrieved.’

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