Letter to the Editor
On the local radio on June 19th, 2012, the Premier was poking fun at our group for opposing the giving away of a section of our West Bay Road. He compared the situation to a man selling a car for $2,000, the buyer refurbishing the car and then reselling it for $5,000. The Premier asked “Are you going to ask for the $3,000 profit he made on the car?”
No, Mr. Premier, that is a poor analogy. The buyer spent money to refurbish the car and making a profit of $3,000 is his due. However, when the developer gets the title to the Crown Land, that is the 4,290 feet of West Bay Road, he immediately gets $600 million in his pocket without doing any upgrading, construction or refurbishing of his property that he owns on the land side of the road. Being in the real estate business yourself, Mr. Bush, surely you will admit that the value of Seven Mile Beach land depends on its depth from the beach/high water mark to its boundary with the West Bay Road. It therefore follows that the simple act of combining the width of the West Bay Road with the developer’s beach parcels increases the value of those parcels significantly. Just think what happens value-wise when those enlarged beach parcels are then also combined with the developer’s landside property: his property will all then be marketed as beachfront property because it will stretch from the Seven Mile Beach high water mark, across the closed section of West Bay Road, through his Stan Thomas acquisitions including the Yacht Club and all the way to the [western] boundary of the Esterly Tibbetts Highway and its extension to Batabano Road. The resulting combination of parcels will immediately at least triple (or more) in value as he will now sell his residential lots as beachfront property!
How did we come up with the above figure of $600 million? Two studies were done by reputable real estate agents on the value of that same West Bay Road in the vicinity of the Public Beach and the Old Courtyard Marriot Hotel. One was done in March 2010 and the other in early 2011. They showed that for every 500 feet of property on the landside the value of the property was increased by $70 million once they acquired the West Bay Road to now become beachfront property. The length of the road that the developer covets is not 2,500 feet, as they were misleading us for nine months, but is actually 4,290 feet. 500 feet goes into 4,290 feet 8.58 times and when multiplied by $70 million gives a total of $600.6 million that the developer will be getting immediately once he gets the title to that section of the road.
We must also add the value of the road itself that is prime, world famous Seven Mile Beach property, priceless. This road is 4,290 feet in length and 70 feet wide, which gives a total of 300,300 square feet. We wonder what amount the developer told the Pricewaterhouse Coopers reviewers that this road was worth since it appears he is calling all the shots. We also wonder what length of road the PWC review was assessing. Was it the 2,500 feet, which is worth a lot less that the actual 4,290 feet? How independent was the review by PWC when only the developer and the government made submissions? Objectors and other interested persons were not allowed to do so.
We have not been able to get to see the NRA Agreement that was signed on December 15th, 2011. We applied on a couple of occasions using the Freedom of Information Act to get copies of this “deal” but we were denied. Thankfully, as a copy has this week come into the possession of Mr. Ezzard Miller it has now been brought out into the public domain. What transparency! Talk about secrecy! Keeping the public in the dark for seven months and they talk about good governance? Is the PWC review going to take the same route of secrecy and keeping the public in the dark?
In the deal the developer is also getting about 75 acres in Barkers and another 73 acres of Crown Land in Salt Creek. He is getting at least $45 million in tax concessions and Room Tax Exemption for 10 years after the hotel is built. He is also getting the re-zoning of 45 acres of mangrove land behind Camana Bay so that he can fill with marl and sell as residential lots. The extension of Esterley Tibbetts Highway up to Batabano Road will open up his land in that area making it even more valuable. In addition, moving the dump away from his proposed residential lots will increase the value of his Camana Bay property in that area.
When all is added, up the developer is getting over $1,000 million. In return he is giving ~$100 million over the next 25 years. We are getting the extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway ($33 million), moving the dump ($26 million), $5 million (for community projects), $4 million (for supplemental budget), land clearing jobs, show gutting hotel and lately a cemetery (in the swamp) in West Bay, a Sunrise Centre and a mini Public Beach.
So Mr. Premier, where is the value for money? You are giving away the country’s assets worth over $1,000 million and in exchange Cayman is getting $100 million. How on heaven’s earth can you call this a ‘fantastic deal’? This you have said on numerous occasions when you referred to Caymanians who oppose this deal as idiots. The For Cayman Investment Alliance should be renamed the For Dart Investment Alliance.
Why is it that the deal is constantly being altered? Just a few days ago we heard of some more projects that the developer was undertaking as part of this deal. Is it because the independent review team of PWC has obviously seen that there is not value for money and someone has recommended to the developer to throw in a few more trinkets into the pot so that the deal looks a little bit fairer? Even with these few additions the developer is getting 10 times what he is giving, which is grossly unfair.
We need the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to complement the West Bay Road and not to replace it. He can also build his hotel with an overhead pass just like the Ritz Carlton and Hyatt did previously. He does not just want the 500 feet of West Bay Road in front of the Old Courtyard Marriot, which was the excuse first used in giving him the section of West Bay Road, but wants 4,290 feet. This extra amount of road is for future speculation.
It is even more disgraceful and shameful that we have a desperate government, so hell bent on starting a project to go into the upcoming elections that they see nothing wrong in giving away so much valuable assets that belong to the people of the Cayman Islands to this developer for little or nothing. The people were never consulted on this deal. We were only informed that it was taking place. “You not stopping me. This project is going ahead.” – The Premier said at a meeting at Mary Miller Hall June 2011. The developer is getting the bank and all the gold and money inside it and in exchange he is giving the government a pouch full of pennies in return.
The government only listens to their supporters and pays no regard to the rest of us who do not agree with the government’s projects that are not in the best interests of the country. If the developer so loves Caymanians and that he is doing these projects for us why does he not leave our West Bay Road alone and stop buying up all the existing Crown Lands for himself. Who has given the developer the permission to acquire such extensive tracts of Crown Land all over Grand Cayman? Was due process adhered to in these transactions?
Morally, environmentally, economically and culturally this project is wrong. This project had its beginning in the previous UDP administration of 2001 – 2005. They amended laws to suit the plans for this project – the Vesting of Crown Lands Law etc. In June 2011 the project was shoved down our throats. No one was going to change the government’s mind. What is even more frightening is that we still do not know all the details of this deal, the facets of this very complex deal are constantly changing and we dare say that not even the government knows what is going on or what they are actually getting as of now.
We say to you Caymanians wake up before it is too late. Wake up before your environment is permanently destroyed and your beaches, your lands, your businesses and your way of life are all taken away from you, forever.
What will we tell our children 30 years from now when they come asking us: “What did you do to stop this wanton destruction of our environment, our protective mangroves? Why did you not stop the wholesale giving away of our Crown lands, our assets, our rights to our beaches and our roads to the extent that nothing was left for us and our children?” All we will be able to do is bow our heads in shame and regret.
To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men. Wake up Cayman!