Premier: Territory will get more
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush announced some additional details of the sweeping land-swap agreement between the Dart group of companies and local government during a budget debate in the Legislative Assembly.
Work on some aspects of the plan – known as the ForCayman Investment Alliance – are already under way; such as the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway from Raleigh Quay into West Bay. However, the final agreement involving all aspects of the deal has not been signed.
Mr. Bush made some of the details about that proposed agreement public.
“The agreement also provides for an additional 20 acres to come to government, part of which will be for a new cemetery in West Bay and part of the beach at the former Victoria House site will become public,” Mr. Bush said.
The site of the cemetery land wasn’t detailed. Also, the Victoria House site public beach location is a bit further north along West Bay Road than the original public beach site location appeared to be on earlier ForCayman Investment Alliance maps. In addition to making the public beach larger and safer – presumably by closing down a section of the West Bay Road in the area – the premier said public access to “more public beach space” would be expanded.
In another announcement related to the Dart-government agreement, Mr. Bush said a new Sunrise Centre school will be built by Dart near the Camana Bay property in George Town.
“[The Sunrise Centre school] will be located near the roundabout on the side of the new National Gallery [building] nearest to West Bay,” Mr. Bush said.
No further specifics of the plan were announced in Legislative Assembly and Dart group representatives contacted by the Compass said they were working on providing more specifics about the premier’s announcements.
Mr. Bush said the investments by the Dart group of companies had “already brought in millions of dollars to government coffers and will bring tens of millions more”.
“Some foolish people decry working with the largest and most generous resident group in the Cayman Islands; a group who has shown their commitment to support and invest in these Islands and its people,” Mr. Bush said. “In the back of all their clack and noise is an effort to unseat me, and get a seat for themselves.
“Who else is willing and ready, in these times, to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to create new offices, new hotels, new shops and activities and maintain a long-term commitment to the Cayman Islands?”
The Dart group has also recently announced that it will become an investor in the North Sound Club Golf Course, partnering with The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman developer Michael Ryan who – at one point – had voiced concerns that he might have to close the course due to funding problems.
Members of separate activist political groups in West Bay and Bodden Town agreed in April that they would “occupy” a section of West Bay Road along Seven Mile Beach as a last resort to prevent the closure of a 4,000-foot section of the street.
The closure is proposed as part of the ForCayman Investment Alliance deal. Part of the agreement involves the relocation of West Bay Road to accommodate a resort development on the property of the now-vacant Courtyard Marriott and the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway into West Bay.
Plans to “occupy” the section of West Bay Road – similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement that sprung up in the United States last year – have been threatened publicly for months. During a mid-February public meeting in George Town, West Bay political candidate Paul Rivers urged individuals to “step up” and occupy the road if the Dart Group and government went ahead with plans for its closure.
“I’m not going to lay down in front of any bulldozer, but I may lay a few bulldozers down,” Mr. Rivers said in February.
Activists said in April that they supported Mr. Rivers’ call. “Paul isn’t going to be alone,” said Mervyn Smith. “We are not just willy-nilly going to allow this to happen.”
Mr. Smith said the “occupy” option would be used as a “last resort”, but he said they would need to be convinced Premier Bush and his government was listening to their concerns. West Bay Action Committee Chairman Henry Orman Morgan said Tuesday that there was no room for negotiation on the removal of the section of West Bay Road.
“This is our road,” Mr. Morgan said. “Just please, leave it alone.” Alice Mae Coe of the Concerned Citizens Group, also in West Bay, said that she would still like to meet and discuss matters with Premier Bush. However, she noted attempts to do so were rebuffed by Mr. Bush on 27 March.