Lawmakers levy new planning fees

Lawmakers have introduced a slew of
new and increased fees for planning and development applications.

The amendments to the Development
and Planning Regulations also include a clause that allows developers to pay
money in lieu of setting aside land on their properties for public use and
right of way.

Under the current regulations,
applicants are required to set aside a maximum of 5 per cent of their land for
public right of way and other public uses. Now, applicants can pay in lieu of
setting aside the land, a sum of money not less than 5 per cent of the value of
the gross area of land.

Property owners that have already
built will also have the option of paying cash in lieu of the land for public
use, at a figure to be reached by the Central Planning Authority, based on the
improved value of the gross area of the land.

The Central Planning Authority will
determine if the circumstances are right to opt for money in lieu of the land.
This occurs if the subdivision has sufficient land set aside for public
purposes or if greater public benefit can be derived from the payment.

Premier McKeeva Bush said the
existing “archaic” regulations, which stipulate that a maximum of 5 per cent be
set aside for public use, meant that there were patches of disused land
throughout the Island that were “used for deviant behaviour” or had become “a
haven for rodents and, in some instances, are just blights on the landscape”.

Mr. Bush said the government would
ensure that the public was made aware of the new regulations, which include new
fees for services that up until now have been available for free and an
increase in existing fees.

In bringing the motion to amend the
regulations, Mr. Bush, who is also Minister of Finance, Tourism and Development,
said it was necessary to review all fees to ensure that Cayman was “more
competitive in the global arena”.

Among the new and increased fees is
a $100 building permit fee for houses smaller than 1,200 square feet; a $100
fee for permission to subdivide property, up from $60; and between 25 cents and
40 cents per square foot to construct or make an extension to a house, duplex
or apartment.

The new regulations also increase
deterrent fees for illegal developments. The current fee for “after the fact
applications”, which are submitted after construction has already begun or been
completed, is double the planning permission fee. The new regulations increase
this to 10 times the prescribed fee.

“It is the government’s hope that
this change will provide the deterrent so badly needed. Failure to comply with
the planning approval process in the normally expected manner can create
nuisances and can put lives at risk. It is our public duty to do what we can to
root out the practice,” Mr. Bush said.

Responding to concerns that owners
of existing developments, on Seven Mile Beach, for example, could effectively
buy back public right of way land and cut off public access to the beach, Mr.
Bush said the public right of way to the beach is guaranteed under said section
32 of the regulations. This stipulates that for every 200 feet of beachfront
development, developers must create a six-foot wide access road or path to the
beach, under the law.

Money paid in lieu of setting aside
land for public right of way and other public purposes will be spent on buying
other private land for public purposes and improving land for recreation
centres, transportation route and public rights of way.

The wording of the regulations was redrafted
overnight to delete references to wildlife reserves and natural buffers as
possible purchases that could be made with the collected money. Legislators
voted to pass the regulations late on Thursday.