Outgoing Cabinet loosens guidelines in beach resort zone

Just before the 22 May general election, the outgoing Cabinet members made small, but significant changes to the Cayman Islands’ Development and Planning Regulations, enabling taller and denser apartment developments closer to the ocean. 

Gazetted 17 May, the new regulations tweak restrictions only in the beach resort/residential zone, which is a transition zone between the hotel/tourism zone and the low density residential zone. 

Permitted uses in the beach resort/residential zone include beach resorts, detached houses, semi-detached houses and duplexes, according to the Department of Planning’s guide to development and planning regulations. In addition to those uses, the Central Planning Authority can also choose to permit guest houses, apartments, cottage colonies and tourism-related developments in the zone. 

The new regulations increase the maximum height of beach resort/residential developments from 40 feet (or 3 storeys) to 55 feet (or 4 storeys). In the case of a 4-storey building, the regulations contain a restriction that “no continuous vertical facade or elevation exceeds 25 feet or 2 storeys in height”, meaning that taller developments shouldn’t tower imposingly over adjacent properties. The new regulations do allow for the facade of a 3-storey building to now rise vertically the entire height of the building, whereas the old regulations had the 2-storey vertical facade restriction in place for 3-storey buildings as well. 

The old regulations specified a maximum density of 20 apartment units per acre, with 30 bedrooms per acre. The new regulations increase that density to 20 apartment units per acre, with 60 bedrooms per acre. 

The old regulations specified a minimum ocean setback of 75 feet from the mean high water mark. The new regulations preserve that 75-foot setback, except where the development sits on ironshore, then the minimum setback has been reduced to 50 feet from the mean high water mark. IRG broker and owner Jeremy Hurst said he didn’t have one specific development in mind that would have been the impetus for this change in the regulations, though he said generally that restrictions in the beach resort/residential zone have been constraining factors on potential developments in those areas. 

He said the loosened regulations could help foster future developments without harming neighbours, as long as the Central Planning Authority continues to exercise its discretion over particular projects. 

“As long as they’re implemented judiciously and the CPA continues to screen the applications, I think that they give further opportunity for developments that wouldn’t be economically feasible under the previous planning 
guidelines,” he said. 

Other site development guidelines include: beach resorts can be 30 bedrooms per acre; cottage colonies can be eight units per acre; detached houses, semi-detached houses and three-bedroom duplexes can be four units per acre; and guest houses can be 30 bedrooms per acre. The minimum lot size for an apartment development in the beach resort/residential zone is half an acre. 

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