Dart drops road talks

The decision isn’t expected to have any effect on the continuing expansion of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway into West Bay, but Dart Realty [Cayman] Ltd. has backed out of any further talks with the Cayman Islands government on a proposed third amendment to the National Roads Authority agreement.  

The agreement is the accord that allowed for the recent closure of the West Bay Road and extension of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway into West Bay. It forms a part of the ForCayman Investment Alliance between Dart and the government.  

The third amendment to the agreement that was being discussed would have allowed for the widening of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway in a two-lane section through George Town and land transfers to the government from Dart in Smith Cove and Barkers.  

According to a statement released Wednesday afternoon: “Dart Realty expects that by withdrawing from negotiations on a third amendment, which has delayed the finalisation of the independent review begun by PricewaterhouseCoopers in March 2012, the public will quickly be provided with the results of the independent review as well as the release of the executed NRA agreement and the first and second amendments [to that agreement].” 

Cabinet ministers said during a Thursday press briefing that they expected to release that review Friday and that, in any case, they said it may have little to do with why the Dart group backed out of the talks. 

Tourism Minister Cline Glidden said a major sticking point in discussions over the third amendment to the NRA agreement was concessions given to the hotel Dart Realty plans to build on the site of the old Courtyard Marriott along West Bay Road. Mr. Glidden said government and Dart were about $16 million apart on the negotiations.  

“They don’t agree with what we’re proposing and what [Cabinet] has approved,” Mr. Glidden said, adding that he expected talks would pick back up after the 22 May general elections.  

Mr. Glidden said the second amendment to the NRA agreement was judged by PricewaterhouseCoopers to have given government value for money, but he said interim government members thought the third amendment to the deal would have provided more value to Caymanians.  

The Dart Realty statement continued: “Dart Realty remains supportive of the new components in the proposed third amendment, which includes the widening of the southern portion of the [Esterley Tibbetts] through Camana Bay to the Butterfield roundabout and land transfers to government adjacent to Smith Cove and Barkers.  

“Dart Realty does not believe discussions on the third amendment should hold up the finalisation of the independent review any longer as the components could form a separate agreement between government and Dart Realty at a later date. 

“We believe that the public should be informed of the results of the independent review as soon as possible, particularly in the context of the significant progress being made on the main projects and in light of the upcoming election,” said Jackie Doak, chief operating officer for Dart Realty. 

Dart Realty indicated it was optimistic its decision will expedite the completion of the independent review and the public release of the results.  

The company said it would “continue to fulfil its obligations” under the executed NRA agreement. 

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report is a value for money review of the National Roads Authority agreement. It differs from a separate review of the entire ForCayman Investment Alliance plan done by KPMG, which has also not been released.  

 

Third amendment  

Another key point in the discussions, according to Health Minister Mark Scotland who spoke at a Cabinet press briefing in March, was the proposed widening of the Esterley Tibbetts between Lawrence Boulevard and the Butterfield roundabout, the old “Harquail Bypass”.  

“We’re trying to gain another improvement, which is to widen the section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway … as everyone is quite aware, there have been several road deaths along that section of the road since the road was opened,” Mr. Scotland said. “It was constructed as … two lanes initially and several years after construction should have been upgraded to a dual-carriage based on the traffic in that area.”  

Tourism Minister Cline Glidden, Jr. said that a section of West Bay Road adjacent to Public Beach, that was supposed to have closed by the end of February, hadn’t been closed on schedule because of the negotiations on the third amendment.  

“We were expected to be able to have an agreement on the third amendment, but the issues with regard to the third amendment haven’t been sorted out,” Mr. Glidden said. 
“That was a bit of an expectation gap.” 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Whether one agrees with the terms of the previous agreements or not, they WERE agreed by the government.

    Dart has done what they promised to do, there should be no further negotiations.

    On the other hand, the government should have released the independent value for money report many months ago.

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