Bodden Town golf course draws fire

A developer wants to build a golf course in the District of Bodden Town.  

The proposal – which also includes 111 house lots, two lots for apartments, two lakes and a canal leading to North Sound in Grand Cayman – has drawn severe criticism from the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and Water Authority-Cayman, who are insisting that an environmental impact assessment be performed due to the presence of ecologically sensitive areas. 

The Central Planning Authority heard the proposal during its 12 September meeting, but held back on making a decision because of a regulation that requires Cabinet approval “for any work related to the sea bed required to connect the proposed canal to the North Sound” before the authority can consider the proposed access through the mangrove buffer zone. 

 

Duck Pond 

The site of the proposed development by Caymarl Ltd. is a 416-acre area about 1,500 feet east of North Sound Estates and 1,300 feet northwest of Northward. About 120 acres would be available for the golf course, local architect Burns Conolly said while representing the developer before the board. The development would include a 20-foot-deep marina with a channel connecting it to the area of North Sound known as “Duck Pond”, according to the Department of Environment’s commentary. 

“The proposal, if approved, will represent the first transgression of the Mangrove Buffer Zone in this part of the Island and its severance is vitally important both in terms of precedent and adverse environmental impact. A breach in the mangroves in this location will establish the principle of development gaining access through the fringing mangroves, which will be of detriment to the Replenishment Zone,” according to the Department of Environment. 

“The primary purpose of the Replenishment Zone is to ensure that culturally and commercially important species, namely conch, turtle and the spiny lobster, have protected breeding and nursery habitat such as seagrass and healthy coral beds. Physical damage and siltation caused by excavation in this location will impact seagrass, mangroves and, ultimately, coral in the vicinity. Works of this type are incompatible with the management objectives of the Marine Park System,” according to the department. 

According to the department, “Duck Pond was historically used as a careenage (pre-industrial method of cleaning a ship’s hull by leaning her over with anchors attached to the standing rigging) due to its extensive shallow waters and a wealth of historically important marine artefacts relating to this activity can still be found today. The site is still waiting for a through archaeological investigation to determine its full potential in contributing to Cayman’s culturally and historically important seafaring history. It will therefore be critically important to consult with the National Museum to determine whether a detailed archaeological survey should be conducted prior to the granting of any permission to dredge or excavate in this area.” 

Mr. Conolly said, “His client is concerned about the impact on Duck Pond. The canal is adjacent to the edge then leads to the Rackley canal. They could have brought it into Duck Pond at the top and then cut diagonally across, which would be worse. They haven’t submitted the Coastal Works License yet because the ministry is looking at combining several applications in the area,” according to the minutes of the meeting. 

He said, “They don’t agree with DOE’s comments on marine archaeology,” according to the minutes. 

 

Lower Valley freshwater lens 

The Department of Environment and Water Authority each warned about potential impacts to the Lower Valley freshwater lens, citing the example of canals dredged by the Mosquito Control and Research Unit in the same area in the 1980s, which, according to the Water Authority, “resulted in drainage and deterioration of the Lower Valley fresh water lens. As a result of this research the Water Authority requested that the MRCU canals were blocked to avoid further deterioration of the Lower Valley fresh water lens. The canals were blocked and have never been reconnected to the sea. 

“This proposed development will result in the deterioration of the Lower Valley fresh water lens in a similar manner as occurred in the 1980s. Therefore the Water Authority is not in a position to support this proposed development.” 

The department and Water Authority both said an environmental impact assessment should be performed before excavation takes place. 

Although the department claims the development is within 1,200 feet of the Lower Valley water lens, Mr. Conolly said the lens is actually 2,000 feet from the boundary of the site, and is just under a mile away from the excavation. He said, “The idea that the excavation is near the aquifer is a myth,” according to the minutes. 

 

Lakes 

The proposed development also calls for lakes of 20 feet and 50 feet in depth, in order to produce enough fill to build contours on the golf course and to use for the proposed extension to the East-West Arterial. Mr. Conolly said the developer had agreed to help build the portion of the bypass that would pass through his land. The site currently does not have road access, but they can use dike roads to get to the land until the arterial extension is built, Mr. Conolly said, according to the minutes. 

The department and Water Authority questioned the depth of the proposed canal and lakes, with the department arguing for the canal to be a maximum of 9 feet deep and the lakes to be a maximum of 14 feet deep. The Water Authority said it generally only approves of lakes being 20 feet deep at most. 

Mr. Conolly said sunlight will reach the bottom of the 20-foot-deep canals so it won’t be a problem. He said the deeper lakes should be approved because the fill will be used for the road extension. The board asked Mr. Conolly to consider making each lake 30- or 35-feet deep, rather than having a 50-foot-deep lake. 

The board asked Mr. Conolly how the developer will maintain the quality of the lakes’ water when they’re not connected to the North Sound. Mr. Conolly answered, according to the minutes, “There are a lot of springs in Cayman that DOE doesn’t take into account. They create stir at the bottom of the lakes.” 

Caymarl’s development is wholly distinct from the golf course and town centre proposed this summer by Eagle Assets Management off Frank Sound Road near the Queen Elizabeth II 
Botanic Park. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Re:Duck pond was used as a careenage and a wealth of historically important marine artefacts…can still be found today. And Mr. Conolly said They don’t agree with DOE’s comments on marine archaeology.
    What does this mean? That the developer thinks the National Museum archaeologist is lying? Probably not. They know damn well they are going to destroy an important archaeological site.

  2. Dear Everytingchis,

    If you read the article carefully you will see that our design carefully creates a path through Duck Pond, along its southern edge, that minimizes this proposed shallow channel’s impact and connects to the existing Rackley channel.

    Over 95% of duct pond is undisturbed. It was carefully laid out to minimize its impact. It is also designed to give other land owners in the area access to it as well minimizing potential of future cuts.

    I did indicate that this is the first we have heard anything about marine archeology in the north sound anywhere and I seriously doubt that the channel our client proposes would have any impact to it. Items such as the PBY Catalina sunk in WW2 has greater value undoubtedly and that is not in Duck Pond.

    It would be good to know when the National Museum plans to carry out a archeological study to see if there really anything there of value. By the way this was only a comment from the DOE staff not from the National Museum so I definitely did not make any suggestion regarding the NM’s staff’s capability.

    I just wanted to clarify this article as you are commenting without all the facts. Sometimes these things get a life of their own unfortunately.

    Best regards.

  3. Dear Mr. Conolly,
    My apologies for not scrutinizing your design plans. And thank you for taking the time to respond to my concern. It would be in your best interests to commission an archaeological survey, whether the NM or an outside contractor. You should seek advice from a professional on the impact of what such development could have on a marine site. From your comment about the value of what might be there, compared to a WW II wreck, I must caution you that marine archaeology is not about that. I hope you do realize the age of this careenage.

  4. Mr. Conolly,

    I am a scientist and fairly aware of fluid dynamics and ecology of lakes. I’m unsure how a spring at the bottom of a lake is going to keep the quality of the water high because at best the movement is going to be low. Even if you have ocean access that does not guarantee that the water quality will remain. If you look at the canals at Camana Bay, Marina Drive and at the end of Patricks Island you will see. Have you had fluid hydrodynamisists look into this?

    Do you have any plans in place if undesired growth were to occur? Standing water (particularly with pond scum) is breeding grounds for mosquitoes which Cayman really doesn’t need more of.

    I appreciate that you answer concerns of people, that is good of you and really shows your interest in the project. I’m not scared of developmental growth (and would love another golf course on the island) but I do have some concerns. If what the DoE is saying is accurate is true, they do have some legitimate issues but it sounds a bit fishy to me. Looking at a map there already appears to be a good amount of dredging in the area.

  5. Morning AnnoyedExpat,

    Unfortunately with newspaper articles they do not have the space to relay the full contents of our 1 hour meeting with the CPA. What you have here is abbreviated.

    I did not indicate that the springs at the bottom of the excavations were the ONLY solution to keeping water quality good in these excavations. What I said was the springs were never taken into account by DOE. My experience with several excavations on island but certainly the ones at Camana Bay is that a lot of water comes up through them. At Camana Bay we were logging over 20,000 gals per minute from one hole alone. As you know the top of the excavation is impacted by wind down for several feet. The key is to get stir throughout the full transect and there are methods for achieving that.

    My general position is that the developer should be made to ensure the water quality in these holes and those methods should be implemented however those technical solutions should never be a prerequisite for Planning permission which deals with land use. Incidentally, I have never had a developer ignore this issue as it will be impossible for them to sell the land around these excavations if they contain poor water quality. Most people believe that our clients do not care about the environmental impacts but that is not true.

    Regarding mosquito breeding, you do know that this land in its current state (the swampy lands) are their perfect breeding ground so anything we do will actually improve the mosquito issue even if it did have poor water quality. That is mainly why MRCU cut dykes through the island’s swamps in the 1960s and 1970s. I feel comfortable knowing this will actually reduce the mosquitos in the area.

    This marine archeology issue is a new one for DOE. It was brought up by them with no reference or consultation to the National Museum and it also appeared the CPA did not give it much credibility.

    I am happy to discuss this project or any other one at any time. We do significant research and meetings with Government departments prior to proposing projects which may be the reason we have such a record of approvals to date.

    thanks again for your comments.

  6. Mr. Conolly,
    What you are talking about is not a spring. When you dig a hole below the water table then water seeps in to fill it back up. This is exactly what the environmentalists are talking about when they say damaging the water lens. The rate of flow of the groundwater into the hole depends on the porosity of the ground not on the fact a big spring is pushing the water out. Cayman does not have the topography or size to support springs. You will notice we dont have rivers for very similar reasons.

    Try this experiment. Go to seven mile beach. Start digging a hole about ten feet up from the water’s edge. Now you will see that when your hole gets deep enough (say about 2-3 feet) that it starts to fill up with water. Please believe me that this is not a spring but rather the fact that you just dug your hole below the water table. Just because you now move ten miles over to Bodden town does not change the laws of physics.

    I think the development in general is a good idea. Perhaps you could find the fill somewhere else so your development can still benefit you without potentially harming others.

  7. I do not live on grand cayman,but building a golf coarse housing complex and what ever else will go in there will not bring tourist to your island. But it will make a few people a lot richer. Not the average caymanian. It also sounds some people higer up are not that concerned about the environment. Once you lose it you will play hell getting it back. Think twice before you act on this plan. You have a beautiful island take GREAT care of her.

  8. VoiceOfReason,

    Mr. Conolly does not have to convince any sensible person that these mythical springs exist, just the CPA. Seeing how receptive they were to the idea of a fixed boundary on the shoreline recently, it should not be too difficult a task.

  9. I read tons of negative comments about every proposed development in the Cayman islands. To date I have not seen one that was welcomed or didn’t have a bunch of people saying it was going to destroy the island. Don’t get me wrong because I think a lot of them are realistic gripes and concerns. But there are a lot such as the rumor that the EE Seaport was going to make the East End fall into the ocean are just ridiculous.

    The one thing I have to say is that I find it hard to believe that anyone would invest millions of dollars into something that was going to destroy the very thing they are relying on for their investment to succeed, it may be hard to believe but these folks are investing into the future of Cayman because if Cayman doesn’t have a bright future their investments will go bust. This particular development, a 5 star golf course would bring a lot to the Cayman product not to mention jobs and all high end golf courses have multiple lakes and hills and they require a lot of maintenance and management

    Think about it for a moment do you really think that these people would invest millions into a development and allow a stinky lake of smelly mosquito ridden water to sit in the middle of it. That Just wouldn’t make since. Do you really think these guys are idiots, they didn’t get rich by building substandard developments that are doomed to fail.

    People should look at these projects as an opportunity and do what it takes so you or your children can be in position to take advantage of it when it knocks at the door. For example, do you know much money Caddy’s make..

    Just food for thought and a personal opinion.

  10. Pete d. You have an opinion on the construction of the golf course thats fine. Probably the only others who share it are those as unfamiliar with golf as you that they also cannot spell course.

    Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world and one of the primary pastimes of the affluent. Of course adding more for affluent tourists to do will attract them here. Right now we have one mediocre 18 hole public course with an uncertain future. A 9 hole course only available to the guests at the Ritz and another 9 hole that is in such poor condition that jack nicklaus ordered them to stop mentioning he was the designer. By contrast Bermuda has something like 9 golf courses.

    Golf courses if built correctly do not have to damage the environment. In fact many are built in audobon nature preserves in the U.S. with no ill effects. To do this you need a cooperative developer and an educated regulatory body that has a spine and is not open to corruption.

    Properties built on golf courses sell for a premium just like properties built on the ocean. the golf courses will add value to the real estate they are looking to develop.

    My only concern is the damage to the water lens. If the developer could obtain fill in such a way that the residents in bodden town will not have salty well water (or well water with fertilizer and other runoff in it) then I say go ahead and build it.

    To NJ2Cay i would say that recent developments at the Ritz prove that developers dont always have long term success as their goal. Once the land plots are sold and a few homes have been built the money will have been made. I doubt they will care if 5 years later the water quality takes a dive in peoples wells and the lakes turn anpoxic.

    This project has real potential to help the island in the short and long term. However it needs to be built in a responsible manner that doesnt threaten the water quality of the Island’s fresh groundwater. I think the enviromentalists and the people who generally dislike all development are given all the ammunition they need when the developer starts talking about magic springs and shows a complete lack of knowledge on the issue (or is it that they dont care).

  11. VoiceOfReason, Thanks for a sensible debate. I do agree that if it is done it needs to be done right, I also think that 50 Ft deep lakes should be out of the question. On the other hand I for one would are rather see a well maintained tropically landscaped golf course than swamp land. Are the developers who are working on this known for doing shoddy substandard work that falls apart over the years? What are some of the other developments that Burns Connolly has worked on, the type of work they’ve done should reflect on their character.

    Regarding the Ritz and the current situation they are in I really don’t that they are in a jam because it’s a shoddy development, I think their issue was sucky management. But I could be wrong, is the Ritz considered shoddy work?

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