The saga of the SafeHaven marina reflects intensely competitive visions for development, made all the more difficult because both have legitimate legal claims and both are right.
The story left off in October when the competitors – tour-boat operators and their spokesman Captain Bryan Ebanks, and developer of both Dragon Bay and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Mike Ryan – took their visions to Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie.
“I am satisfied that the balance of convenience is with the plaintiffs and grant the interlocutory injunction until trial,” Justice Smellie told the court, extending a September 20 injunction, delaying any new work that would create “fundamental changes” to the integrity of the area. He set no date for a hearing.
Boat owners, some of whom had been docking at the site since 1989, argued that 20 years at the site and multiple investments in infrastructure gave them a right to remain, stipulated in an earlier agreement with the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands.
The Port Authority, however, no longer owns the land at SafeHaven, which was traded to Mr. Ryan in 2009 for equivalent nearby lands belonging to Mr. Ryan
Part of that agreement, enabling Mr. Ryan to build his canal-side Dragon Bay residential, recreational and commercial project, was that he would also build a new Port Authority marina and administration building at the site.
As such, the reprieve for the boat owners may prove short-lived.
The argument came to a head in the summer, when a howl of protest greeted Mr. Ryan’s order to boat operators to vacate the premises – moving to a nearby interim site prepared by Mr. Ryan – by the 13 August start of earthworks.
Many refused, gaining a postponement until 20 August. Most operators relocated by that time, although five still remained, filing a 10 September writ of summons, saying they had no authority to move to the interim docks on Dart-owned land, fearing they could be evicted at any moment.
The group sought an injunction against Mr. Ryan, the Port Authority and Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin, preventing them from hindering access to SafeHaven or building anything that would stop them using the site.
Mr. Ryan offered a formal letter from Dart, calling it “a licence”, guaranteeing access to the interim site as long as necessary and a berth at the completed $4 million Port Authority marina. Designed to accommodate 20 boats, four more than the current facilities, a 3,000-square-foot Port Authority administration building, a public boat ramp, picnic areas, public restrooms, a concession area, a landscaped public open space, 30-vehicle parking – plus 10 more for boat trailers – and a sewage pump-out slip, were all scheduled for completion within one year.
In early August, the operators met North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean at the site, where Mr. Miller advised them not to move, regardless of the eviction order.
“They have to understand that when it comes time us Caymanians will stand up for our rights,” said Mr. Miller. “My recommendation is you don’t move. You stay here.”
For his part, Mr. Ryan remains determined to complete the marina, saying it is good for Cayman and good for Dragon Bay, boosting local employment and safety for boat operators and their clients.