South Sound project causing ruckus again

Angry residents are expected to attend a meeting tonight to discuss the resubmission of the planning application for the Emerald Sound project in South Sound.

A similar planning application submitted by developer R.C. Estates in 2007 met with considerable opposition.

Concerns raised by area residents at a capacity crowd public meeting held in April 2007 related to the project’s size and scope, as well as the inclusion of a canal in the design, and the dredging of a six-foot deep channel into the waters of South Sound.

If the project goes ahead, the canal would be the first one that enters land on Grand Cayman from anywhere but the North Sound.

Although some people thought the plans had been abandoned, architect Burns Conolly said in a statement, ‘the Emerald Sound project never actually stopped.’

‘Additional studies and consulting works were happening behind the scenes and the developer is now ready to continue through the approval stage.’

The planning documents were resubmitted on 21 December, 2009, and a press release issued to adjacent landowners addressing issues pertaining to drainage, mangroves, coastal views, road adjustment, sea surge and traffic raised in the past.

Already, representatives of the Pirate Cove Estates Residents’ Association made a presentation to the cabinet on 11 January objecting to the proposed development. A letter of objection from the association was to have been delivered to Planning on 12 January together with a request that the period for objections be extended.

Project background

A statement issued by Burn Conolly said Emerald Sound is the lowest density ‘feasible’ that can be placed on the site.

‘With over 91 acres of development land, less than 50 acres are being proposed to be developed with the remaining property being landscape, canal, public space or ‘green reserve’ for the future bypass,’ it stated.

‘No other development in South Sound is of this low density.’

The statement asserted that while the property is allowed to have over 1,360 apartments or 300 house lots according to current Planning regulations, the development will have less than 170 apartments and only 82 home sites.

Explaining the decision to proceed with the project in a down time in the real estate market, Mr. Conolly said most of the larger projects require one to two years to prepare lands and sell off.

‘It is not expected that the current downturn in the economy will last for more than a year or so – in that time the property will be developed,’ he said.

He explained the project is for house lots as well as an area for apartments and a marina.

The project is expected to begin after getting the various approvals and there are no sales targets to be met prior to moving ahead, and a final market price is not known at this stage.

‘However it is likely to not be too dissimilar to Grand Harbour, which is a similar type of development nearby,’ he said.

Lots in Grand Harbour listed on Cayman’s MLS service range from $165,243 for .26 acre lot to $558,000 for .55 acres.

Issues of contention

Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said the DoE has not received the application for review.

‘However we have reviewed a previous application and have met with the developer and his agent on several occasions to discuss our concerns, which primarily centre around the issues of water quality and the impacts of establishing a direct connection between a mangrove peat environment and South Sound, and the precedent setting nature of permitting this type of development, not only in relation to South Sound, but also for the rest of the island.’

Mr. Conolly’s press release contended that the design will contain all of Emerald Sound’s runoff on the site.

‘The Planning Department and Government authorities do not allow water runoff to enter the canals,’ said Mr. Conolly.

‘Therefore all of Emerald Sound’s surface runoff must go into the deep wells or into the swale that surrounds the property. In fact Emerald Sound will improve the current situation, which sees fresh or brackish water entering the South Sound through those drainage ditches…DOE has spoken about that for years,’ he continued.

‘Emerald Sound’s canals will be the same depth of South Sound and only contain sea water at a depth of 6 to 8 feet.’

Mr. Conolly also elaborated on the assertion in the press release that Emerald Sound will likely improve the sea surge resistance of the area not reduce it.

‘The current South Sound road after Ivan is just a few feet above sea level, having not been reinstated to its full height,’ he said.

He noted the entire road and development of Emerald Sound will be an average of 4 to 6 feet above sea level with homes.

‘This will reduce the impact of sea surge,’ he said.

‘The canal walls are 5 feet above the canal water so even if the seas rises it would have to rise higher than the walls before overtopping occurs,’ he continued.

‘By that time all of the surrounding properties will be already under several feet of water. Additionally the canal entrance is protected from wave action through its shape (it bends on entrance) and the fact that it opens to the southwest, a rare wave direction. From the reef no entrance will be visible.’

Tonight’s meeting about the project is scheduled for

7pm at the South Sound Community Centre.