Don’t ruin South Sound

I read with amazement on Sunday night an article detailing the re-emergence of the Emerald Sound development in South Sound. Perhaps I should have expected to see this project again, given the track record of indiscriminate physical development in Cayman and our government’s historical disregard for any factor beyond the short term economic. I did, however, expect better from the developers following the outpouring of sentiment and objection from the people of South Sound and generally, of Cayman in April 2007 when this project first became public.

The South Sound Community Centre was literally overflowing with people, desperate to do something, anything, to ensure that this travesty did not occur. In the crowd there was equal representation from just about every group in the community-South Sounders whose families have lived there for 10 generations, those from more northern origins who made it their home in the 1970s and ’80s, the newly arrived, and everyone in-between. Our objections varied from matters of community safety to unjustifiable environmental impacts, but all were equally forceful in our expression that we as individuals and as a collective strongly believed that this development was not in the best interest of the community and that we would absolutely fight against this development.

I write from the UK where I am completing my studies, tempted to get on the next flight home, to encourage you, South Sounders, Caymanians, members of the Cayman community, to please again let your thoughts on this project be known.

We are tired of and exhausted from seeing our beautiful Island ransacked into a concrete jungle, with no consideration given to us or our children, or any current or future inhabitants of these islands. Over 55 per cent of canal lots in Grand Cayman still sit vacant-why then do these developers believe that there is genuine demand, beyond speculative, for more high-end residential lots? The majority of the mangrove wetlands of the western half of the Island have been destroyed. Culturally, we have increasingly fewer reminders left of the simple yet precious aesthetic of scenic and architectural Cayman at its best.

On Seven Mile Beach we prepare to bid the Beach Club a heavy-hearted farewell as the latest in a long list of small, rustic hotels exchanged for seven storey, million-dollar money makers. Other losses include Fort George, Dr. Roy’s House, Old Galleon Beach, the original Holiday Inn, the freshwater pond in South Sound, the original Seven Mile Beach road, which ran closer to the beach with unobstructed views of the ocean.

South Sound Road is one of these community treasures we still have. It is a place where we go for jogs and walk our dogs, a place where we played with children on the beach or in the mangroves. And we love it exactly as it is and was: unpolished, rough around the edges, natural, breathtaking. We do not want St Tropez in South Sound, as the spokesperson for this development has told us it will be. Legitimate concern has been raised about the flooding of neighbouring properties that this development may cause, not to mention the possible scenarios of water surge in a hurricane or tropical storm or the bridge collapsing and thus cutting off access for inhabitants.

Reasons to object:

1) The majority of the community very strongly oppose the development

2) Environmental destruction of the Sound from dredging (the surrounding coral reef system, the young marine life for which the Sound acts as a nursery, water quality and clarity, coastal erosion)

3) The canal and the cutting of the road would bring open water further inland, increasing exposure of all inland properties in the area to tidal inundation in storms and hurricanes

4) Safety concerns for resident boaters in the Sound with forced increase in traffic through the channel, which is dangerous to navigate

5) The aesthetic appeal and cultural landscape of South Sound will be forever changed. Do we want South Sound to look like St Tropez or to remain a Caymanian gem?

While some may prefer to not see the project go through at all, I do recognize the right of the owner of the land to benefit from his property and this is entirely possible to do in a way that would be acceptable to the community. If the developer meets the community halfway and removes the marina element of the development (i.e., no canals and instead creates a non-canal/non-marina luxury South Sound property development), does not significantly alter the main South Sound road and creates the development in a tasteful and discrete way that does not alter the current look of South Sound road, they would find little to no objections with their development.

Despite our fatigue from past heartbreaks, I plead with you, with us, as a community: Let us speak out and put an end to this indiscriminate destruction of our home.

Katrina Johnson Jurn