A local developer has forged ahead with his plan to fill in a portion of South Sound and build a seawall some 50 feet out into the sea, even though objectors are currently appealing the permission granted by the Central Planning Authority in August.
All week, truck loads of shot rock are being dumped into the Sound.
Minister Mike Adam told the Caymanian Compass on Tuesday morning that he had approached the Attorney General about seeking an injunction to halt work on the site until legal questions are resolved. The pertinent topic is whether a property’s seaward boundary recedes with physical erosion, or whether, once the boundary is ‘fixed’ according to a survey, the owner retains control over the land even if it becomes submerged.
As of press time, the Attorney General had not responded to the Compass’ request for comment.
On Thursday morning, Mr. Adam said he was about to enter a meeting on the subject of the development and that he would contact the Compass after the meeting. During the week, the Compass has repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, attempted to contact Mr. Adam to discuss the topic at greater length. The newspaper held the story until Thursday afternoon attempting to give the minister time to comment on the issue.
On Thursday afternoon, Katrina Jurn of Protect South Sound said it is her understanding that the Attorney General will not be filing the injunction.
This is the latest row between a group of South Sound protestors and developer Rene Hislop, whose contentious Emerald Sound subdivision is just across South Sound Road.
Mr. Hislop could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
During its 15 August meeting, the authority approved an application by Mr. Hislop’s R.C. Estates to move the location of an approved seawall some 50 feet south and reclaim land lost to Hurricane Ivan. In conjunction, the authority removed a nearly 13-year-old requirement to maintain a 50-foot-wide mangrove buffer, which was destroyed by the 2004 storm.
Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie maintained that her department’s concerns about the application are still valid.
“The premise that the mean high water mark can be fixed as part of a fixed boundary survey is incorrect,” she said.
To the contrary, the authority accepted the argument made by the developer’s attorney J. Samuel Jackson, who said, “There are two types of boundaries, general and fixed. A fixed boundary is for perpetuity in the Land Law. It is clear, if the seaward boundary has a fixed boundary, then it is fixed.”
Real estate broker Alister Ayres, who was Chief Surveyor at the Lands and Survey Department from 1992-2001, said the terms ‘general’ and ‘fixed’ boundaries refer to the quality and standard of the survey being done, not to specific types of boundaries.
He said he was “absolutely amazed” and “astounded” to hear that the authority had accepted the argument that the seaward boundary can be static.
“It is completely incorrect. Nobody it seems had the sense or thought to consult a Lands and Survey surveyor,” he said.
Mr. Ayres said it is universally accepted among surveying professionals that coastal boundaries are ambulatory and travel with weather and nature. He said in this instance, the seaward edge was properly set at the edge of the mangroves, then the boundary would recede when the mangroves disappeared, and would not extend out again until the mangroves grow back.
James Kennedy, an attorney at Samson and McGrath, agreed with Mr. Ayres after reading the law.
“It looks like it is floating and subject to the whims of nature,” he said.