A portion of West Bay Road through the Seven Mile Public Beach and the “surrounding area” may be worth $600 million, according to a group of local activists.
Members of several groups opposed to the West Bay Road closure; as well as the Barkers and Salt Creek land swaps and the establishment of a new landfill in Bodden Town met Thursday in West Bay to discuss the issues.
The meeting featured several speakers who blasted the proposed projects, as well as the government’s relationship with the Dart Group in the ForCayman Investment Alliance, which is driving the land swap proposals.
Group member Mervin Smith, a West Bay resident, said there was no published information regarding beach access in Barkers once the land swap occurs. He said there was also no information about how the closure of a 4,200-foot section of West Bay Road would affect current beach access in those areas.
“We like what we got and we want to keep it that way,” he said.
Mr. Smith said valuations commissioned by him and his associates revealed that the section of West Bay Road the Dart group is interested in is worth $600 million. He said the Salt Creek and Barkers pieces of land were worth around $70 million each, adding that this coupled with duty and other concessions would mean that the Dart Group would be getting $1.1 billion in value from the deal, while giving up only $100 million.
Dart already owns the land on both sides of West Bay Road in the disputed section. The government said it is giving up the road because it is needed in order to make development in the area feasible. The move is expected to aid the development of a four star hotel.
The total value of all real estate transactions in the Cayman Islands in 2011 was $632 million.
Mr. Smith told the audience that the Barkers National Park would be compromised under the agreement. He said this would affect the way of life that Caymanians have enjoyed for generations.
“What we are giving up as part of the deal is the part of Barker’s where we have camped on the beach and we are getting some swamp land in return. There is going to be a gravel trail and canals – that need to be dredged – separating the properties,” he said. “It seems that someone does not want Caymanians to access their property.”
Other speakers at the event included Captain Brian Ebanks who said the work to begin the West Bay Road closure had already begun, despite a government review not being complete. He said he was concerned about $5 million given to the government as part of the 2011/12 budget by the Dart group of companies, which he called a “gift that came at a convenient time”.
“They are giving us money during the review process for the road,” he said, noting that Caymanians should stop accepting gifts without accepting that there will be a price to pay. “They are doing too much preaching about what their gifts. We have to be careful here?”
In his remarks during the meeting, North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller told attendees that he wanted to see an invoice for the $5 million the government received from Dart during the review process for the road, adding that the agreement between the “For Dart Alliance” as he called it, was not a good one for the Cayman Islands.