The Central Planning Authority on Wednesday turned down an application to remove 295,000 cubic yards of fill from the Beach Bay area in Lower Valley, much to the relief of local residents.
Whiterock Investments had applied to excavate a site on 44 acres at Mahogany Estates off Beach Bay Road, including an area at the coastline of the bluff, to 10 feet below its current height.
Residents of Mahogany Estates objected to the application, which they say is for a quarry, on several grounds, including the effects of blasting and the use of heavy machinery and trucks in a residential area.
Assistant Director of Planning Ron Sanderson said the application was for a modification of earlier planning permission, given by the Central Planning Authority in 1997. “They turned down the request to modify that planning permission. In essence, it will be for the same reason that the board [of the Central Planning Authority] turned down an application in 2008,” Mr. Sanderson said.
The Authority turned down a similar application to remove 250,000 cubic yards of fill at the site on the grounds that it would create a nuisance or annoyance to others, contrary to the Development and Planning Regulations, and that planning permission had already been granted for a residential subdivision and levelling of roads on the land that did not necessitate the proposed excavation work.
Whiterock Investments contends that the application is not for a quarry, but a modification to the existing planning permission to excavate the land for a “single family residential subdivision”.
Reverend Nicholas Sykes, a resident of Mahogany Estates, said he and fellow residents were “very relieved” that the application was turned down.
“We have to prepare basically to see whether the procedures can be changed so we don’t have to put up with repeated applications, which no doubt we will. We’ve been told that an appeal of the 2008 decision is already in process,” he said.
He added that he felt the situation was getting to a point where it should be considered a “constitutional issue”. “After all, you are supposed to have the right to family life which includes the right to our homes being respected. It seems to be me that something needs to be done to adjust the procedures so this does not keep cropping up again and again,” he said. He queried whether the Central Planning Authority could delegate a part of its responsibility to the Planning Department to deal with repeated applications.
Lawyer Samuel Jackson, in a statement issued on behalf of Whiterock Investments, said his client was “extremely disappointed” with the CPA decision. “We are currently awaiting the reasons for the decision to be delivered to us in writing, and it is anticipated that the decision will be appealed,” he said.
He said Whiterock maintained there was no material change of the primary use of the land and that large scale operations “invariably involve heavy industrial operations to create the development”, adding that “the end result would not be a pit or hole, but level, solid land with the primary use being retained as a single family residential subdivision”.
Mr. Jackson said the objectors’ concerns seemed largely based on past operations at on the site rather than the latest proposal, and that the CPA had give “too much weight” to the large number of objections, which he said were “without merit”.
He said it was unlikely the rugged terrain at the site could be developed into single family lots without the funds generated by selling the fill. “Consequently, not only is the developer deprived of the opportunity of proceeding with the development, but ultimately, a large number of family members of a Caymanian estate have been deprived of the opportunity to derive some legitimate income from a cash poor estate, which, at the end of the day, is the real travesty in this case,” he said.
The application drew 25 written objections from residents of Mahogany Estates, as well as submissions from the Water Authority, Department of Environment and National Roads Authority.
The Department of Environment stated that it regarded this as an application for a “quarry”, as defined in the 2004 CPA Aggregate Policy, and that a moratorium on quarry applications was currently in place.
The department said the proposed works would impact on two areas of environmental interest. “DoE does not regard quarrying as an environmentally sustainable development of the site, as this type of activity permanently removes the attributes of the site which contribute to its environmental sensitivity, including primary vegetation and natural physical relief,” the submission from the Department of Environment read.
It added: “The fact that the proposed area for excavation appears to extend to, and breach, the Bluff is an additional cause for concern. The loss of this natural protective feature will impact flood defences of both proposed and pre-existing lots in the neighbourhood.”
The department added that offers by the developer to relocate trees from the site to a nursery would not mitigate the environmental damage the proposal would bring. “The numerous offers from the developer to relocate native trees and also to provide trees to the Native Tree Nursery have been made without any discussion with the Native Tree Nursery. If this had been the case, the developer would have known that the uprooting and translocation of mature trees growing in rock is impractical at best. Additionally, the Native Tree Nursery does not have the capacity to receive, maintain or translocate large trees,” the DoE submission stated.
In its submission, the Water Authority said the development “will produce excess fill material that will be used outside of the property on which the fill is generated. As such the Planning Department and the developer are advised that quarries of this nature are subject to review by the Aggregate Advisory Committee (AAC), of which the Water Authority is a member”.
The Water Authority raised concerns that excavation to the southern boundary of the site that faces the sea would result in the entire excavated area becoming vulnerable to storm surges during hurricanes, resulting in salt water intrusion into the property. It recommended that the application be supplemented by a storm-water management plan to addresses potential impact from storm surges or an alternative design that avoids effects of storm surges.
It said that if the CPA granted permission for the application, the applicant would be required to obtain a quarry permit from the Water Authority.
The application turned down by the CPA Wednesday is the latest in a series dating back to May 1997 when the Authority granted permission to remove fill from the site in accordance with the site plan for a residential subdivision.
In January, 2000, the authority refused an application to level, clear and stockpile fill at the site under the Development and Planning Regulations because the land was zoned residential and the fill work would be a nuisance to others. Five months later, the Planning Appeals Tribunal dismissed an appeal of that decision.
However, quarrying work continued at the site and in October, 2007, the Central Planning Authority issued enforcement and stop notices.
In October, 2008, the CPA refused another application on the basis that the blasting and jack hammering and the presence of heavy equipment and trucks would negatively affect the quality of life of neighbouring residents. It stated at the time that the 1997 planning permission remained valid for the levelling of the subdivision road, but that the proposed excavation was not necessary to complete the subdivision.