Smaller lot sizes recommended

A committee reviewing the Development and Planning Law and Regulations has recommended Cayman increase its density requirements to allow for smaller lots sizes in larger developments among other changes.

Burns Conolly, who chairs the Planning Law and Regulation Review Committee, said 24 recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Financial Services, Tourism and Development.

‘The recommendations cover not only legislative changes, but changes to some of the planning processes,’ he said.

Premier McKeeva Bush said the recommendations were scheduled to come to Cabinet before the end of January and, in some cases, to Legislative Assembly possibly as early as February.

One of the recommendations is that planned area development or planned unit development – also known as PAD/PUD – regulations be adopted for larger multi-zoned developments.

As a form of development control, planned unit development promotes, among other things, a mixture of land uses within a development and a clustering of residential land with large amounts of common open space. The planned area development facilitates more traditional neighbourhoods, more efficient use of land and distribution of roads and utilities and ‘greener’ developments that promote healthy means of transportation.

The planned area/unit development concept follows the standards and principles of new urbanism, which is designed to make areas more liveable and people-oriented.

One feature of planned area development is smaller house lots in larger, multi-purpose developments, the kind being built in Cayman these days Mr. Conolly said.

‘We’re getting larger developments here now that our current planning laws and regulations aren’t equipped to deal with,’ he said, noting that when the Development Plan was implemented there were only about 10,000 people in the Cayman Islands.

‘The Development Plan was supposed to be revised every five years, but it has only been revised twice since 1977 in spite of what it said.’

Smaller house lots would not only be more cost-efficient way of delivering road and utility infrastructure, it would reduce land cost.

Mr. Bush said the latter would be a key component in the decision-making process.

‘[Higher densities] can make land more affordable,’ he said. ‘That is the driving force behind the proposal.’

Mr. Conolly said that there was already a provision in the Planning Law and Regulations that allowed for smaller house lots in low-income housing developments, but the idea would be to allow the smaller lots in general subdivisions.

‘The key is to ensure there are regulations to control the quality,’ Mr. Conolly said. ‘You don’t want to end up with slums, which could be the downside of putting a lot of people close together.’

Mr. Conolly’s committee did not recommend particular lot sizes in its initial submission to government. However, if the government wants to proceed, the committee would undertake to make specific recommendations. Currently, a house lot in low density residential areas has to be at least 12,500 square feet, even in a large subdivision. However, Mr. Conolly said he could envision the minimum lot size being as low as 6,500 square feet in a planned area/unit development.

‘That would have to come with real public open spaces like parks,’ he said.

Other recommendations

Another recommendation made by the committee is a comprehensive plan for access to landlocked properties.

The reason noted for the recommendation is that many Caymanians have landlocked parcels with no access, and therefore cannot use the land.

‘Government should enable their access,’ the committee wrote.

The committee also recommended that a ‘Caymanised’ version of International Building Code replace the Cayman Islands Building Code.

‘Our existing code is no longer being updated,’ the committee stated. ‘Some sections are difficult to find. The new IBC is now more appropriate of Cayman.’

Some of the recommendations made by the committee were to make planning processes easier. For instance the committee recommended that the definition of ‘adjacent’ be clarified because when it comes to making the various notifications required by law, the ‘current interpretation of adjacent is taken to the extreme and is very costly and time consuming to developers.’ Similarly, when a parcel is adjacent to a strata corporation – for a condominium complex for example – the committee recommended that a legislative change so that only the strata office receives notifications required by law, and not every individual owner in the strata.

The committee also made several recommendations designed to give the Central Planning Authority more power to deal with various aspects of development and planning approvals.

Mr. Conolly said the committee’s initial report was only one part of its work, adding that the first phase was making the kinds of non-controversial recommendations that could be implemented in the short term.

‘The recommendations could be implemented in the next sitting of [the Legislative Assembly] if everyone agreed on it,’ he said.

But the committee’s work was far from done.

‘We will probably work for another year to deal with all of the issues on the table in our terms of reference.’

Mr. Conolly said getting public input would be one of the phases of the committee’s work.