Planning officials have shot down the Dart Group’s proposals to place digital signs in the roundabout near Camana Bay and to put messaging on a chain link fence along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway promoting the landfill remediation project.
The Central Planning Authority heard and refused the two applications during its 10 October meeting. In its decision denying Dart’s digital signs, the planning authority described similar signs it approved last year in the Grand Harbour roundabout as causing an “unsafe distraction”.
‘Not an exact social science’
Dart was seeking permission for seven digital signs, with four to go on the Camana Bay roundabout, one on the landscaped boulevard near the Century 21 roundabout, one at the intersection of West Bay Road and Camana Way and one to be attached to an existing generator house at the northern Camana Bay entrance.
In August 2011, the planning authority approved the DMS Organisation’s proposal to place three digital signs at the Grand Harbour roundabout, despite strenuous objections over safety by the National Roads Authority, which said it did not wish for a precedent to be set allowing future digital signs near roads.
The planning authority stipulated that the DMS signs only be used for public service announcements, as opposed to commercial advertising. Camana Bay Town Centre Manager Ken Hydes told the planning authority that Dart’s signs would be used for public service announcements, such as hurricane notifications, but also to inform people what is happening at Camana Bay.
The planning authority asked if the DMS signs are the same as Dart’s proposed signs, and Dart representative Brenton Rankin said, “They are the same, they even have the specifications for them,” according to the minutes of the meeting. Mr. Hydes said the only sign that is different is a larger digital sign to go at the northern entrance to Camana Bay.
The planning authority determined to refuse Dart’s application, stating the signs would “pose a significant distraction for motorists” and “do not provide for an appropriate visual image that would improve the commercial areas of the land”.
According to the minutes, the planning authority “is very concerned that the level of distraction created by the signs will endanger the safety of the travelling public”.
In its decision, the planning authority referenced its previous approval of the similar DMS signs, saying it “has now had over one year to monitor and observe the signs at the DMS roundabout and is now of the view that the signs do pose a distraction for drivers manoeuvring through the roundabout”.
According to the minutes, “The Authority acknowledges that land use planning is not an exact social science and realises that the Authority gains knowledge and understanding from monitoring approved developments to assist in making informed decisions on future applications.
“In this instance, the Authority has determined that the decision on the DMS signs should not be repeated due to the unsafe distraction that these types of digital LED signs cause for travelling motorists.”
‘Dangerous visual distraction’
At the same meeting, the planning authority heard an application from the ForCayman Investment Alliance (the coalition between Dart and the government) to repair the 10-foot-high chain link fence that runs along the Esterley Tibbetts Highway near the George Town landfill. In addition to fixing the fence, the group proposed replacing the green mesh covering the fence with a fabric bearing promotional messages in favour of remediating the landfill.
Representing the applicants, architect John Doak said, “It’s about 1,200 feet long because that is the length of the property. In addition to renewing the green mesh, the application will help promote what is behind the fence. It will be a community message. It’s not advertising anything, but promoting the benefits of remediating the landfill. They may recall when Camana Bay was being developed there was Harris fencing that had panels with pre-printed images of what Camana Bay would look like,” according to meeting minutes.
Mr. Doak said the fence is in need of regular repair and the application for the new mesh coincides with the landfill proposal. “Originally, they were going to replace the green mesh, but then they realised coincidentally the timing of the FCIA agreement concerning the remediation of the George Town landfill and that in a 10-year period it will become a place of recreation,” he said, according to the minutes.
The planning authority rejected the application, saying, “The Board is not in favour of billboards. They have refused many that were to be used for commercial advertising and this signage has that appearance. The projects he refers to like Camana Bay had temporary construction fences and were taken down,” according to the minutes.
According to the minutes, the planning authority cited two reasons for its refusal, including “The Authority is of the view that the proposed signs will result in a dangerous visual distraction on a very busy highway, potentially leading to traffic safety problems.”
Additionally, “The Authority is of the view that the existing chain link fence with green mesh together with the existing vegetation behind the fence provides an adequate and visually acceptable buffer from the landfill site. Consequently, the Authority is of the opinion that the proposed signage will unnecessarily detract from the visual appearance of this portion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway corridor.”