Old house in jeopardy

I am writing in response to the article, ‘Razed mangrove cause for concern’ printed on the front page of your paper on Friday 13, June.

I believe there are a number of inaccuracies in your reporting, and would like to set the record straight.

In the first paragraph of the report, it states that ‘the un-authorised clearance of mangrove and other wetland plants from a site near Barkers National Park has left residents angered and complaining of an offensive smell in the area’.

Please note that the clearance occurred following the relocation of the old Jefferson house from another area of West Bay. The removal was a matter of urgency, as the historic home, which is about 80 years old, was being threatened with demolition. The Planning Department was notified at the time and was advised that the process was urgent, due to this threat.

Drawings were provided to Planning, showing the intended location of the house and that the house was part of a private plan to develop the property as a recreational paddock for the owner’s horses, utilising the house as accommodations for the horse handler and equipment. A formal application for approval to remove and relocate the house was made, and has been formally approved by the Planning Department. A building permit was also granted.

To accommodate the old house and the cranes, low loaders and equipment bringing it to its new location, a certain amount of land had to be cleared. A large part of the bush that was cleared was, in fact dead, and as a result of the clearing process, new mangrove shoots have already begun to appear. In the main part, it was bush, and not mangroves, that were cleared.

In addition to the above, advice has been sought from the Department of Environment regarding the lake, as there was concern for the quality of the water and the flushing of the lake area from the mosquito dyke system, water run off from the parcel, etc., etc. Since the stop order was enforced, all work in this regard has come to a halt.

All directives and advice from the planning department have been promptly followed, including the application for the clearance and fill. This is not an intentional after the fact procedure – although technically speaking, the application before the CPA is an after-the-fact submission, the planning department is totally aware of the process that the applicant has been following, and the circumstances that surround the application.

In addition to the above, I should like to point out that it has not been proven that the offensive smell noted in your article is related to the clearance of the site. The Department of the Environment is investigating the issue. The fact that the smell had started to improve by the morning of Thursday the 12th of June, as stated in your article, suggests that in fact the smell is the same smell that has been present in that neighbourhood at the start of rainy season, or at the end of a spell of dry weather. As mentioned above, we have had to stop all work on any system to improve the quality of the lake water, due to the stop order from Planning.

I am a concerned Caymanian, who is well aware of the issues with regard to the ecology of this island. As proven by my other developments on the island, I believe I am a responsible developer, with respect to both the laws governing planning, and to the island itself. My intention with regards to the land in Barkers was to create a low key horse stable, with just a few horses, and in the process to conserve a part of Cayman’s Heritage, at not insubstantial cost to myself. To categorise me as a ‘cavalier developer’ is misleading, inaccurate, and shows an ignorance of the facts surrounding this case.

It is my belief that, as Cayman is a small community, we should all work together, not against each other, to solve issues such as this, and it is my intention to work with the residents of the area affected to ensure that the problem, whether related to the clearance of the land or not, is resolved.

I am very surprised about the negative reaction of the residents on Powery Road and I have decided against building the equestrian centre. In regards to the Jefferson house, if anybody else wants to take over my attempts to restore an old Caymanian house, I am happy to give away the house for no cost. Otherwise the Jefferson house will be demolished after all, like so many other true Caymanian Heritage houses.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Anglin that ‘we want to keep Cayman as a good, friendly place to do good business’ – that has always been my experience in my other projects on this island, and I hope that it will continue in this way for many years to come.

Andreas O. Ugland

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