The Central Planning Authority has approved the controversial Emerald Sound development’s planning application, despite objections from South Sound residents, who promised Thursday to appeal the decision.
Cabinet still has to give its approval before construction can begin on the 91-acre development, with plans including 81 houses, 160 apartments, the first network of canals outside of North Sound, a bridge and the relocation of South Sound Road some 30 to 75 feet inland.
Burns Conolly, the chief architect for the project, said plans by Rene Hislop and his company RC Estates meet all existing plans and regulations in the Cayman Islands. He stressed the residential development reserves more than seven acres of land to mitigate flooding from neighbours’ land and is far lower in density than current regulations would allow.
“The development, being so low in density, actually creates less than 50 per cent of the traffic impact in the area than allowed under the existing laws. I am therefore not surprised that the CPA saw fit to approve this application,” Mr. Conolly said.
The new development and road would begin just east of Bel Air Drive and run to Old Crewe Road. Mr. Conolly and Mr. Hislop are both South Sound residents themselves.
“We are extremely disappointed in the CPA’s decision, which we find shocking based on the laws, policies and guidelines which the CPA is supposed to abide by, and the serious risks posed by this project and the extremely negative impact it will have on the future development of the Cayman Islands,” said Katrina Jurn, one of the South Sound residents helping to coordinate the Protect South Sound organisation.
Ms Jurn said residents will appeal the decision to the appointed 15-member Planning Appeals Tribunal, and then up through the judicial system, if necessary.
During the authority’s all-day hearing Wednesday, 3 August, objectors – who filled the room with a listed capacity of 49 persons – repeatedly said they do not take issue with Mr. Hislop’s right to develop his property as he sees fit. Rather they oppose novel elements of Emerald Sound that will impact the surrounding South Sound area, namely the canals and the channel connecting them to the sea, dredging the Sound, the moving of the road and the construction of a bridge to span the canal with a clearance of 17 feet.
“No canals, no bridge, no moving the road and no dredging of the Sound,” Ms Jurn said.
Mr. Conolly said the reasons for moving the road are to create bicycle lanes, pedestrian lanes and landscaping; to align the road with a roundabout at Old Crewe Road proposed by the National Roads Authority; and to allow for a single entryway to 22 seaside housing lots also owned by RC Estates.
Meanwhile, objectors argue bicycle and pedestrian lanes could be added to the existing road; the NRA proposal is years or decades from becoming reality; and 22 separate entryways would be preferable to moving the road, building a bridge and possibly destroying the treasured South Sound view.
While the authority was charged with considering the inland aspects of the development, including the lots and the canals, Cabinet still must make a decision whether or not to grant the developer a Coastal Works Licence regarding the coastal aspects of the development, such as the channel connecting the canal to the sea, and associated dredging of 0.7 acres of South Sound. Cabinet approval is also required to move the road.
Ms Jurn said neighbours plan to make their objections known to Cabinet, whose refusal to grant a Coastal Works Licence would stymie the project.
“The developer has done a tremendous amount of research including computer simulations of storm surge to ensure that the objectors’ concerns were understood and the myths surrounding this project were dispelled. Emerald Sound will be a benefit to the Cayman Islands, uplifting property values in the area and providing a new standard of development in South Sound,” Mr. Conolly said.
Ms Jurn called on fellow objectors not to lose hope. “We are confident that no matter how far we have to take it, this project will be stopped,” she said. “We need the support of the public to ensure South Sound is protected from developments such as Emerald Sound that will not only change South Sound but the future development of Cayman.”