After hearing opposing arguments from a South Sound developer and objectors for several hours Tuesday, a judge is deliberating whether or not to sustain an injunction temporarily halting a land reclamation and seawall project, R.C. Estates developer Rene Hislop said.
According to Mr. Hislop, Cayman Islands Grand Court Justice Charles Quin said he would issue a decision on or before 6 November, during which time the injunction will prevail. The injunction filed by objectors has halted work on the project since Friday.
Objectors want work on the project to stop until the Planning Appeals Tribunal has the chance to consider the Central Planning Authority’s decision to allow Mr. Hislop to extend some 2,000 feet of shoreline some 50 feet into South Sound in Grand Cayman and construct a 9-foot-high seawall.
Fixed or ambulatory
Some people fear that the planning authority’s approval of the project will lead property owners along the coastline – including Seven Mile Beach – to consider reclaiming submerged land to the farthest extent of surveyed boundaries.
Mr. Hislop, meanwhile, said he is following established precedent, not setting one.In mid-August, the authority accepted the argument made by Mr. Hislop’s attorney J. Samuel Jackson that the property owner maintains control over the whole area identified by a “fixed” boundary survey done in 1999 – including the now-submerged land formerly covered by 50 feet of mangroves that were wiped out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Other people, including the Protect South Sound group, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and a former government chief surveyor, say the seaward boundary of a property travels along with natural forces of erosion and accretion.
Department of Environment Director Gena Ebanks-Petrie said, “It sets an unacceptable precedent for all our major coastlines, and could result in major loss of Crown land in the form of seabed.”
Real estate broker Alister Ayres, who was chief surveyor at the Lands and Survey Department from 1992 to 2001, said if the precedent holds, then nothing will stop a coastal property owner from waiting until a large storm dumps a massive amount of sand onto the edge of the property, and then getting a surveyor to “fix” the boundary as far out into the ocean as possible, in order to prepare for a future land reclamation project.
“This is the very thin edge of a thick wedge,” he said.
Mr. Hislop said his project is being targeted unfairly, and he is simply following the example set by a property owner up the road.
He pointed to the planning authority’s approval of a project by Gencorp Equitable Natwest Corp. Ltd. to clear and fill a vacant lot, up the high water mark, on Shamrock Road next to the Vista Caribe apartment complex in the Red Bay area.
In that case, planning officials discovered the work was being done in late July 2011. The developer then applied for permission in early August 2011. The authority did not hear the application until March 2012. Although it was an after-the-fact application, Gencorp paid the usual CI$500 planning application fee, and produced an e-mail excerpt from Assistant Director of Planning Ron Sanderson stating the department would not charge the applicant an after-the-fact fee that would have been CI$5,000.