Emerald Sound ‘backup plan’ approved

The so-called “backup plan” for the site of the proposed Emerald Sound development has been approved by the Central Planning Authority. In its meeting 29 February, the board favourably considered the application for a 23-lot subdivision and excavation on 88 acres off South Sound Road, east of Bel Air Drive.

The plans for the “Adagio Community Subdivision” include residential lots and two lakes, plus the inland relocation of South Sound Road that was also part of the Emerald Sound proposal – a canal development with 81 houses and 160 apartments, for which the necessary coastal works licence remains pending. In its analysis, the Cayman Islands Department of Planning noted that the Adagio approval “doesn’t negate the previous approval granted for subdivision, excavation, canals and a bridge” by the Central Planning Authority in August 2011.

Developer Rene Hislop and the National Roads Authority have initiated the procedure to swap land in order to relocate about 2,300 feet of South Sound Road some 30 to 75 feet inland. The existing road would be retained as an access road to the seaside house lots (also owned by Mr. Hislop’s company). The Roads Authority Board hasn’t deliberated upon or rendered a decision on the road realignment. On 29 March, National Roads Authority Assistant Director Denis Thibeault said, “I must advise that there has been no progress made by the NRA Board of Directors in regards to the proposed relocation of South Sound Road.”

In its analysis of the proposal, the roads authority calculated that at Adagio, “The current zoning designation could therefore allow for a maximum of 941 multi-family/condominium units (assuming 15 units/acre are constructed).”

Objectors generally said they were OK with the idea of the Adagio development, but protested against the road relocation, proposed lake depths, use of blasting or explosives on the site, and any removal of excavated fill from the property.

Representing Mr. Hislop’s company J.R. Holdings, project architect Burns Conolly said blasting is not within the remit of the planning authority.

“The idea of doing a quarry here, especially in South Sound where land is so expensive, is odd. They are not doing that. The fill is for the site,” he said, according to Planning Authority meeting minutes.

Lakes

The Adagio application considered by the planning authority originally called for the two lakes to have depths of 30 and 35 feet, covering 19.5 acres and yielding more than 1 million cubic yards of fill. The Department of Environment said it does not generally support lake depths exceeding 14 feet, while the Water Authority and planning departments recommended a maximum lake depth of 20 feet.

“In the absence of a management plan for the maintenance of water quality within the lakes (including details of who will be responsible for maintaining water quality) the department does not support the proposed depth of excavation and strongly recommends that the applicant restricts the depth of the lakes to 14 feet or less,” the Department of Environment said in its comments on the proposal. “In the DoE’s experience, lakes with excavated depths of over 14 feet, and sometimes even shallower water bodies, which do not have an appropriate management strategy (including aeration of the water body), tend to have issues associated with poor water quality, including frequent fish kills, objectionable odours, unsightly algal blooms and water discolouration, which can be a nuisance to surrounding residents.”

The Department of Environment said, “Additionally deep excavations are susceptible to contamination from neighbouring septic tank disposal wells through ground water movements.” It recommended the implementation of a Water Quality Management Strategy before digging the lakes deeper than 14 feet.

The Water Authority said, “Excavating residential lakes beyond 20-foot depth results risks contamination and degradation of water quality as a result of the disposal of wastewater effluent in deep wells from nearby properties.”

Regarding the road relocation, the Department of Environment said it would affect a “Scenic Coastline Zone” as designated in the development plan. “In the absence of any justification for the road realignment, it is unclear why it necessary and is therefore not supported by the department.”

Mr. Conolly said the parcel is inland and thus is not subject to scenic coastline control.

CPA decision

In its decision, the Central Planning Authority stipulated that the developer must limit lake depths to a maximum of 30 feet, provide a water quality management plan for the lakes, create acceleration/deceleration lanes to mitigate traffic onto South sound Road, and retain all excavated material on
the site.

“The authority is not convinced that the Department of Environment, Water Authority or any other agency or body has proven that lake depths beyond 20 feet will result in a degraded water quality that will cause harm to the amenity of surrounding residential development. The authority views it prudent to require the applicant to provide a water quality management plan to demonstrate that the water quality in the lakes will be maintained at an acceptable level so as not to cause harm to the amenity of the surrounding residential areas,” according to the
meeting minutes.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The authority is not convinced that the Department of Environment, Water Authority or any other agency or body has proven that lake depths beyond 20 feet will result in a degraded water quality that will cause harm to the amenity of surrounding residential development.

    In everyday language they are saying We are a politically appointed body and therefore we must know a lot more than those who rely on education and research to support their opinions.

  2. Unfortunately, 99 percent of the people of an enitre community may not want such a massive project to go down in their neighborhood, yet the way the law of the land is written, they have no say over developers and the planning authority.

    It is baffling!

  3. I agree with you Bodden that it’s unfortunate but not really baffling. The issue here is the right of ownership and what personal property really means. When you buy land and there’s a lot of undeveloped private property around if you really have no control over what the owner decides to build on it, as long as it’s within the legal guidelines because they own the property just like you own yours. My place up on the NorthSide has a wonderful view of the ocean but the land in between me and the water is privately owned ocean front. So I have to except the fact that one day something may go up that will block my view and I will really have no way to stop it. I guess I could have brought on the ocean front instead of the inland side if I wanted the right to the view. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford it, some rich folk may buy it one day and decide to build something that’ll change my view forever, but what can I say it’s their land. I wouldn’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot build on the land I brought with my own hard earned cash if it’s within the legal guidelines.

  4. Well, the people opposed the initial plans for the development (not surprising on this island) so the developers came up with a second proposal. I am sure people will protest that too. Imagine the hypocrisy where developers (a Caymanian developer no less) is not allowed to invest and develop their land b/c people don’t want change. This nonsense has to stop!

    Good for the Planning Department to speak publicly about lake depths too. If people bother to read the article, notice they said in the absence of a management plan for water quality Cayman will have a serious problem in the long-term with regards to quarrying. There is only so much land in Cayman that can be quarried. We need to start quarrying these lakes deeper and getting the most potential per square foot of lake. Once you quarry to 15-20ft, you can’t go back later and decide to go deeper. Government should REQUIRE the quarry operations to dig deeper, and also require them to install and maintain a water quality management system. Aerators / fountains are usually all you need to circulate and aerate the water. They don’t cost much to operate and they are attractive too. I’m sure the DOE could muster up some minimum requirements to maintain the water quality, and the Quarry operators would go for it in a heartbeat.

  5. Have we, the human race, not learned from the mistakes of others? Have we not found that anytime we mess with the natural order of water, we screw things up? What happened to the wetlands when we filled large portions of the Everglades of S. Florida? What happened when we dammed up rivers? What continues to happen when we dredge coastal waters? So WHAT’S going to happen when we dig quarries to obtain fill and then turn them into lakes to supposedly enhance the beauty and value of the new properties? You’re going to end up with a stagnant pool of water. Sure, you may aerate it to some degree, but it’s still going to be an algae-infested, quite possibly sewage-laden, predominantly stagnant pool of water. And where does all water end up? In the sea! The DOE, not the CPA, can tell you exactly what happens when algae and sewage are introduced to our fragile eco system. Heck, any school child can tell you! Maybe the CPA needs to hire school children so that proposals such as Emerald Sound can be thought through more clearly and logically.

  6. @Caymer.
    So I suppose you don’t live in one of the many canal developments in Cayman like North Sound Estates, Grand Harbour, Governor’s Harbour, The Shores, Yacht Club, and on and on. All of these are man-made. Have these developments ruined the environment? I suppose you want everyone in Cayman to sell their boats and become land lovers. Is there some law that says canals can only be made into the North Sound?

    As for lakes, unless your yard is surrounded by swamp and built on iron shore, you have purchased fill from one of Cayman’s quarries. So you, (just like everyone else) have contributed to at least one of these manmade lakes. Quarrying is not a luxury in Cayman, it is a necessity! And unless Cayman is getting bigger, we will eventually run out of useful areas to quarry. So why not get the most potential out of these lakes! Government does not require a water quality management system for quarried lakes, so the DOE recommends a maximum depth to help maintain the water quality. But if government did require this, the operators could go deeper to everyone’s benefit.

    Don’t kid yourself, manmade lakes are done all over the world at much deeper than 20ft, ever seen the Hoover Dam in Lake Mead in Las Vegas? What about the Panama Canal? Manmade!

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