Bush: Road deal start of economic turnaround

Dart deal road realignment 300x250

The signing of an agreement between the Dart Group, the National Roads Authority and the Cayman Islands government will have an immediate impact on the economy, Premier McKeeva Bush said. 

Speaking at the signing Thursday, 15 December, Mr. Bush said it was an important day for the Cayman Islands. 

“This is a momentous day that has seen some tough negotiations and some challenging times for both sides – the Cabinet ministers and the Dart Group representatives – but today is a good day none-the-less,” he said. 

The agreement is a component of the ForCayman Investment Alliance ‘mega deal’ announced in June between the government and the Dart Group, however it stands alone from the definitive main agreement relating to that deal. Mr. Bush said he anticipated the main agreement would be signed in about four months.  

Key elements of the deal signed last week include: 

  • The Dart Group to fund the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway from its current terminus at Raleigh Quay to Batabano Road in West Bay; 
  • The Dart Group to fund an extension of Reverend Blackman Drive, connecting Willie Farrington Drive with part of the new section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway; 
  • The Dart Group to fund a new road to Barkers National Park. 
  • The eventual closure of about 2,500 feet of West Bay Road from Governors Way to Yacht Drive, with the road lands becoming part of the Dart Group’s adjacent properties; 
  • The Dart Group to create a bike/walking trail to give the public access to the coastal beach along the entire length of the 2,500 feet of road that will be closed; 
  • The Dart Group’s commitment to commence construction on the redevelopment of the former Courtyard Marriott Hotel within 12 months; 
  • The Dart Group’s immediate release of US$5 million out of US$20.5 million allocated as part of the main ForCayman Investment Alliance deal. Half of the released funds will be used for the Saving Homes Residential Mortgage Arrears Programme and the other half for education projects; 
  • The Dart Group to get development concessions to a maximum net present value of US$24 million providing it continues to invest and develop in the Cayman Islands. 

Mr. Bush said there were many benefits of the agreement for the Cayman Islands. 

“Signing this agreement will immediately impact the economy,” he said. “It will create jobs; put people to work; give local businesses project contracts; and enable Caymanians, who have been unemployed and are experiencing real financial strain, to actively work to save their homes and feed their families.” 

Dart Realty Chief Operating Officer Jackie Doak confirmed construction on the road works would start within 30 days. 

“In fact, even before the [National Roads Authority] agreement was signed, in the true spirit and intent of the alliance, 30 Caymanians are already at work performing preclearance work on our lands for the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.” 

 

Traffic Impact Assessment  

National Roads Authority Deputy Chairman Troy Whittaker said the road now called the Esterley Tibbetts Highway was approved back in the late 1960s as part of the Governor’s Harbour Development and was then called Peninsula Avenue. He said it was also considered part of the 1988 Master Ground Transportation Study.  

“[I]n the 23 years since then, neither the Roads section of the Public Works Department nor the subsequently created National Roads Authority has seen the need to spend government’s money on a traffic impact assessment for a road which it already agreed was needed,” he said.  

Nevertheless, Mr. Whittaker said the Dart Group advised the roads authority it had commissioned a traffic impact assessment relating to the elements of its agreement with the government. 

That study was undertaken by Orth-Rodgers & Associates, Inc, a US-based company of transportation engineers and planners. The 27-page study, which can be accessed in full at the ForCayman Investment Alliance website, looks at the impacts from extending the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to West Bay, from the closure of the section of West Bay Road, and from the development of the Dart-owned lands along the Seven Mile Beach corridor north of Governors Way. 

The study concludes that the proposed modifications of the roadway system were “acceptable measures taken in providing adequate roadway capacity in a full build-out condition”. 

“The results of the study indicated what we have known all along,” Mr. Whittaker said. “That the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Batabano Road will improve traffic flow to and from West Bay. 

“Additionally, it showed that the proposed decommissioning of the small section of West Bay Road will help with the flooding that is experienced during severe weather conditions.” 

Mr. Whittaker said the NRA board was happy to sign the agreement. 

“The NRA Board endorses the proposed closure of a small section of West Bay Road and from a traffic management and public safety point of view, we look forward to working with Dart Realty on the planned road improvements.” 

 

Independent review  

The deal reached last Thursday requires an independent review by 16 March, 2012, to ensure that by signing the agreement, the government is compliant with its Framework for Fiscal Responsibility and to provide government with adequate information to assess the value of the agreement to the Cayman Islands. 

The review will be conducted by a qualified entity appointed by the government. 

Mrs. Doak said the Dart Group embraced the independent review and compliance with all Cayman Islands laws, legal requirements and procedures. 

“While conducted after the execution of this agreement, the independent review allows government to consider the results, suggest amendments or, in extreme circumstances, terminate the agreement.” 

Mrs. Doak said there had already been a study conducted by Deloitte on the economic impact of the projects involved. 

“The findings confirm that not only will there be a significant positive economic impact in the short term, but also for years to come,” she said. “We anticipate that the independent review will validate the Deloitte assessment and also confirm that the [National Roads Authority] agreement represents value to the Cayman Islands.” 

 

Petition  

Mr. Bush said he was aware of a petition signed by several thousand people against the realignment of West Bay Road and delivered to Governor Duncan Taylor last week. 

He said Mr. Taylor forwarded him the petition along with a letter. In that letter to Mr. Bush, Mr. Taylor stated he had explained to the petition’s organisers that “policy on business development is a matter which is devolved to the local government.” 

“You have the lead responsibility,” Mr. Taylor wrote. 

Mr. Bush said he was personally reviewing the petition. 

“From my preliminary review, I can see that many residents and many visitors, including cruise ship passengers, have signed the petition,” he said, noting that some of his supporters also signed it. 

“But I know that many of the people who signed were given wrong information and misled into believing that we were closing all of West Bay Road and giving away all of public beach,” he said. “That is simply not true.” 

Mr. Bush said he could not agree with the framers of the petition. 

“What we are doing is good for West Bay and all the people of the Cayman Islands,” he said. “We, the Cabinet, have a responsibility to help turn around this economy and get people back to work … We don’t have the luxury of waiting years to help people.” 

 

Mortgage arrears programme  

After the signing, Mrs. Doak presented Sonia McLaughlin with a cheque for the Saving Homes Residential Mortgage Arrears Programme. Mrs. McLaughlin, who is the chief officer with responsibility for public finance in the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development, will chair the committee established to oversee the programme. Other members of that committee include Cora Grant-James and Carlon Powery, Mr. Bush said. 

“The committee, with assistance from the bank, which holds the specific mortgage, will assess the needs of applicants and will, for those who are successful, award approximately a $12,000 allowance with subsequent assistance provided for up to three mortgage payments, with the total of the funds awarded not to exceed $20,000 in total.” Mr. Bush said the money paid out from the programme would go directly to the banks.“The purpose of this programme is to assist those who are facing the loss of their homes,” he said.  

“The government’s goal is to give those successful applicants 30 to 50 years to repay the funds, without interest. Of course, they can pay it off earlier if their situation improves.” 

Dart deal road realignment

A drawing of what the traffic flow in and out of West Bay will look like in the future. – Image: Submitted

1 COMMENT

  1. How can people taking the people’s land be positive?
    Are you insane?
    The land belongs to the Caymanian people.
    And its worth more than a measly hand out of 20,000
    to every West Bayer who are a gullible set of ignorant people that keep elcting this man name McKeeva to office to make our lives miserable.

    LEGAL ACTION MUST BE TAKEN AND DEMAND THE UK TO PROTECT US SINCE THE GOVERNOR DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HIS ROLE IS HE IS A DISAPPOINTMENT.

  2. This is awesome news for the Grand Cayman economy:
    1) Will be less traffic and slow down traffic on 7 mile beach. Make it safer for everybody including tourist.
    2) Bigger and better public beach area.
    3) With this new hotel it will increase room inventory getting Cayman more airline flights.
    4) Get Caymanians back to work for over the next 2 years. Then when the hotel opens, more jobs are created and more Room tax to government.
    5) Property values in West Bay will increase with this needed highway.
    6) The scenic coastal bike trail path through the close area will be great for all in preserving a safe place to walk, run and ride.

    When the Dart Group does any project it is always done in a GRAND style and always gives back to the community.

  3. Vietnam…
    What are you talking about? No one is taking anybody’s land. Stop spreading false rumours.
    The government is trading some land with Dart and in exchange the government gets a package worth more than 110 million. The Caymanian people are getting plenty in return, plus the economy will get a big boost, helping everyone.
    How is that taking land? Are you insane? Or just not very smart?
    Stop causing a problems or go back to Vietnam.

  4. South Sound,

    You like all the others who obstruct to anything named Caymanian or anything good for Caymanians; you rejoice at the rejection of the 4,000 signatures submitted against the Dart moving or closing the West Bay Road. I wouldn’t celebrate too quickly if I were you.As long as harm is being done to the Caymanian people you all are quite happy. I guess that’s the reason people did not attend those meetings about the white paper survey, because they realize who is for or against them.

    How can moving or closing that part of the West Bay Road obstructing the beach view be good for the country when its all we have left? You seem to have forgotten that we are a tourist destination not a cement jungle. There are other needs for investment like refurbishing buildings and using them for factories, and educational training centers. Every greedy developer coming to this country lusting after our beachfront property should NOT BE ABLE TO ACQUIRE IT!
    W ARE AGAINST IT AND ITS NOT OVER. Not everyone is ‘FOR SALE

    UNDERSTOODE?

    Now you go back to Southsound its ignorant people like you that developers like Dart feeds on ignoramuses!
    Since you’re so bright Mr. or Mrs south Sound, what is your plan to control the out of control development in this country that is destroying it at a fast pace in a hand basket. please let us know, we’re waiting….

  5. Don’t be too hard on Vietnam

    He’s a graduate of the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too

    In his mind, everyone is against him. And when the Dart deal is done, and it’s not the evil he yells to the world it is. He will quietly slink back from where he came, until a new change is announced. Then he will come out of hiding, and yell to whom ever will listen, that the new evil has commeth, again. Rinse, repeat, recycle…..

    I am more than sure he was against the Caymana Bay project too. And look at the evil that has produced (rolls eyes)

  6. Vietnam, While I do understand your gripe and agree that a lot of foreigners do lust after Caymans beaches no different than the beaches on other Caribbean islands. But one thing I’d like to point out is that it’s Caymanians that sold the land in the first place. So you cannot really blame the developers. Here’s an idea, if people want this land to stay Caymanian owned, why not buy it up themselves and keep it in the family instead of selling it for what people say is the All Mighty dollar.

    They couldn’t buy it if it wasn’t for sale, and if it was privately owned the government could sell or trade it. I hear a lot of people saying it’s Crown land which does not mean it belongs to the Caymanian people, unfortunate but true it means that they the Government have the right to do with it what they deem is in the best interest of the Country. This is a bad situation for some if not all Caymanian people but not unlike everywhere else in the world where people are subject to the choices made by the government.

    Regarding your comment about them rejecting the 4000 Signatures, if they were to base their choices on those signatures wouldn’t that only account for a fraction of the population and my they rejected the choices of the rest? Sound like a no win situation to me and can you really name any idea that everyone agreed with.

    Please do not take this personally I am only making an observation and voicing an opinion and mine is that it’s unfortunate but it seems that the Cayman Islands Government have found themselves in a bad situation and now have to make hard decisions to survive or face the UKs version of Uncle Sam. Which is something I am one hundred percent sure no one would like.

    On Another note, it would be nice to see some of the big rich Caymanian families stepping up and saying we are here to help save Cayman and preserve the heritage of our people, instead of someone else getting rich off the idea or richer I mean. Where are all the big Caymanian Family names I see when driving around Cayman and what are they doing to help during these hard times.

  7. Don’t you think you have enough empty room in hotels now? Why do you think you need to give up your land and have even MORE empty hotel rooms. Many things need to change before you bring back the tourtist to the Island..and the change is not more empty rooms.

  8. The UDP is again insulting the Caymanian people by offering a poverty stricken hand out of a measly only FIVE days work per year for Caymanian born people to clean up the streets like slaves for Christmas. Caymanians have now been pushed inland by invasion and are now INDIANS ON A RESERVATION with the uncompromised help of this UDP GOVERNMENT WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for the sorrows of Caymanians that are jobless and homeless. WHILE they grant WORK PERMITS FOR FOREIGNERS TO WORK ALL YEAR ROUND1 HOW INSULTING AND INCITING! They call it helping us for Christmas, Premier Bush and the UDP are a disgrace!
    This Premier, the Governor and all leadership have gotten on my last nerve to suggest to the Caymanian people to help themselves and each other.

    The UDP actually gift wrapped our most prestine portion of the West Bay Road by giving up 2500 ft. of beach and put it UNDER DART’S CHRISTMAS TREE!
    Dart got his Christmas present first before everyone else!
    We are told by the leaders to share with each other while these party pigs oppress the orphans, the widows, and the poor, wining and dining the rich and famous..

    I can’t believer our Sister in Christ, the deputy Premier put such a dangerous bill on the table that have now served to screw us. wile Kurt and Alden stand by and watch ..
    God help us. New blood need to be elected in our legislature no more of the same. No more PPM and no more UDP. Our hope is in Independents or nothing at all. Start the movement everyone, lets get it on.

    Both the PPM and UDP must go in 2013!

    Independent member Ezzard must lead!

  9. Here we go.
    We have empty hotel rooms and we need Change to fill them.

    Change comes and knocks on the door; 4000 voices shout: GO AWAY CHANGE, YOU ARE THE DEVIL!

    Change shakes his head and walks around to the back door and Mac lets him in.

  10. The US is easing restrictions on Cuba. Looks like I’ll be able to see the ocean there. I’ve always said Cayman would really be hurt when Cuba opens up.