About 50 residents of South Sound and other opponents to the Emerald Sound development along South Sound Road met last week to discuss strategies to fight the proposed plan.
Crammed into the living room of meeting organiser Katrina Jurn, the residents spent two hours formulating their plan of attack to object to the planning application, which will be considered by the Central Planning Authority on 3 August.
Only a handful of attendees of the meeting, many of whom had earlier lodged objections about the proposal with the authority, said they had received notification the CPA meeting would take place.
Ms Jurn said only about 100 of the 1,100 who had signed a petition or sent letters of objection to the Central Planning Authority had been notified about the upcoming planning application meeting.
“Most people haven’t even been notified yet,” she said.
The residents have asked the CPA to reschedule the meeting because many of the objectors will be off island in early August, but have been told by the Planning Department that the meeting will go ahead as planned.
Among the residents who will be away from Cayman for next week’s planning meeting is John MacKenzie, who has been strongly opposed to the proposed development. He outlined the major areas of objection that those will attend the meeting should raise at the meeting.
He warned that if this development went ahead it could set a precedent for other developers to be allowed to cut channels from the Sound and across the road. Currently, canal development has only occurred in the North Sound.
Mr. MacKenzie told attendees the number of objections to this development made it one of the most objected-to projects to come before the Central Planning Authority.
Participants at Thursday night’s meeting raised their concerns about the possibility of increased flooding in the area and a change in the balance of salt water in the swamp due to a channel that the developer is proposing be cut from the South Sound, across the road and into the development area which lies on the land side between Bel Air Drive and Old Crewe Road.
Peter Milburn said he believed the development would have “very serious insurance implications” for home owners in the surrounding area because of increased risks of flooding and storm damage.
Billy Adam suggested that opponents to the development should organise a rally in front of the Government Administration in George Town to make the government and Premier McKeeva Bush aware of how strongly they feel about the project and to demand Mr. Bush speak with them about it.
Thursday night’s meeting attracted not just South Sound residents, but also members of the Concerned Citizens Group from West Bay and the West Bay Action Committee, who are opposing a proposal by Dart to close a section of West Bay Road as part of its redevelopment plans for the old Marriott Courtyard hotel. The groups promised their support to the South Sound objectors.
Alice Mae Coe of the Concerned Citizens group told them that developers over the years had cut off local people’s access to and views of the beach from the roadside.
Henry Orman Morgan of the West Bay Action Group said opponents to the Emerald Sound development and to the West Bay Road closure should combine their efforts, adding that the government needed to realise resentment was growing in Cayman about the Dart proposal.
“Unless someone changes their attitude, this could turn into not a pretty situation,” Mr. Morgan said. “We need to let them know that.”
Some of the strongest objections to the Emerald Sound proposal relate to a plan to move South Sound Road, to cut a channel from the Sound to the canal of the development so that homeowners of Emerald Sound can take their boats in and out of the Sound, and to build a bridge over the channel along the road.
Plans for the development include moving South Sound Road between 80 and 100 feet inland. Residents say this will increase the value of 22 lots owned by the developer on the sea side of the road. The chief architect of the proposed development, Burns Conolly, said moving the road inland is intended to allow for double cycling lanes, pedestrian lanes and landscaping.
Mr. Conolly has described most of the concerns raised in the residents’ objections as “myths”, which he says he intends to address at the upcoming planning meeting.
Objectors say the CPA should not even consider the proposal because the developer, Rene Hislop, has not yet received a Coastal Works Licence. However, Mr. Conolly said although the developer had applied for a coastal works licence, one was not required before the planning application was heard because this only applied in the case of a development affecting a mangrove buffer area or a storm buffer.
“Neither of these occur on this site,” Mr. Conolly said.
Members of the group plan to meet again next week for further discussions.
The developer has also organised a public meeting at 7pm at the South Sound Community Centre on Thursday, 28 July.
“The meeting is being organised by the developer as a way of coming to the community for the second time to explain to them what we are doing,” Mr. Conolly said.
A community meeting was held in January last year to give residents details of the project, but did not convince them to change their objections to the plan.