Public road showdown set for December

 

The Grand Court on Thursday set 11 December to hear a constitutional challenge to government’s 2011 decision to close a section of West Bay Road. 

Justice Alexander Henderson allowed the challenge to that 19-month-old decision to proceed, as Mourant Ozannes lawyers for the Cayman Islands attorney general announced the administration was dropping efforts to throw out the case. 

At the end of a 90-minute hearing, Justice Henderson acceded to a three-day slot after court officers granted the mid-December days for arguments in the case, likely to rely on testimony both from West Bay residents and top government officials, including Attorney General Sam Bulgin. 

“You have probably received information that the application to strike out has been withdrawn,” Mourant attorney Hector Robinson told the court, affirming the previous day’s decision by the attorney general to contest the late-February challenge by West Bay’s Concerned Citizens group. 

“The conduct will revert after today to the attorney general’s chambers,” he said, indicating Mourant would withdraw from the defence. 

He did not elaborate on government’s decision to drop opposition to the courtroom battle, saying only that “we have seen quite a bit of documentation. There are a number of issues
about the decision-making process, which were impugned in the claim,” he said.  

The original 25 February writ, filed by Concerned Citizens’ Alice Mae Coe, Annie A. Multon, Ezmie Smith and Betty R. Ebanks, accused the governor, the attorney general, the ministry of works and the National Roads Authority of violating both constitutional and common law by granting rights-of-way on West Bay Road – and transferring authority for the land – to the ForCayman Investment Alliance, a Dart Realty-government public-private partnership. 

The ForCayman Investment Alliance plans for the area include closure of 4,000 feet of road parallel to Public Beach, easing Dart’s expansion of nearby commercial and recreational facilities, and reconstruction of the old Marriott Courtyard. The project has already extended to completion of new roads in the vicinity. 

Justice Henderson created a timetable prior to the 11 December hearing, ordering amendments to the original petition by 8 September, setting a schedule for exchanges of documents, evidence, skeleton arguments, replies, witness lists and case authorities starting 25 August and ending 6 December, immediately prior to opening arguments. 

He would convene a case-management conference during the first week of October, he said, ensuring the schedule’s integrity. 

“This is a reasonably complex matter,” he warned, citing urgent “public interest” in a quick resolution and worrying aloud “if Cabinet secrecy would be an issue” under the attorney general. 

Mr. Robinson was unable to reassure the court, saying “I don’t know”, indicating the issue might arise, but concluding that “we’ll know more as we move forth”. 

Attorney for the citizens group, Irvin Banks, anticipated his arguments would rely on Cayman heritage rights, based on oral tradition, common law and prescriptive rights, adducing evidence on the testimony of “five or six witnesses”, including the four plaintiffs. 

He anticipated an opening address between “two hours and three hours”, and asked for a full day to complete his presentation. “We can probably do it fairly quickly,” Mr. Banks said. 

Mr. Robinson said he had seen “quite a bit of documentation”, and would seek more, asking Justice Henderson for “the better part of four days” to complete arguments and a full week to resolve the matter. 

Denying the request, Justice Henderson said “there is some priority to this the matter”, observing no injunctions had stopped further development at the site and wondering about “public concern that this be dealt with quickly”. 

Speaking after Thursday’s adjournment, both Ms Multon and Ms Ebanks said the four plaintiffs were satisfied by the court’s decision, and looked forward to December. 

“We are pleased with the outcome,” the pair agreed. “They removed the motion to strike out [the 25 February writ] because they see we have a good case. 

“They see we have eight strong legs to stand on,” Ms. Multon said. 

0
0

4 COMMENTS

  1. It seems a bit late for this type action after the project is complete. While I was not in favor of this initially, it has turned out quite nice and is much more efficient than the old road. The Public Beach Park that is planned also looks to add a great deal to the Public Beach area. I think this would also set a bad precident for future investment in the Islands if Government decisions are reversed such as this.

    0

    0
  2. Caymanians need to accept change!! Other Caribbean Islands have investors from all over the world investing in their Islands. We need future investors to invest in the Cayman IslandsCI Government doesn’t have the finances!!

    With the Dart Companies investing here, jobs are created and this continue for years to come. Have these people thought about this?

    I have lived in West Bay all my life, and I too was not initially for this change. I remember when I had to leave home at 7.15/7.30 a.m. and sat in traffic for 1 hour plus to get to work for 8.30, now in less than 20 minutes I am in Town.

    What exactly is this Group hoping to achieve? If they WIN will they want the Road to be closed? Who will pay for this?

    0

    0
  3. A deal is a deal. Now if the court decide that the agreement as not allowed because of persons acting outside their authority, someone will have to pay for the error, us. It is not as if the contractor started work with the hope that substantial completion of the project would not allow a reversal. An agreement was made by our representatives, and the contractor is making good their end of the bargain. I too was against the proposal, but if the District of West Bay which this project has the most effect, decide to re-elect the driver of this plan, as far as I am concerned the majority have spoken.. The district of Bodden Town have spoken re. the dump, and they expect their representatives to act in keeping with their mandate. But, of course the law abiding citizens of Cayman will abide by the ruling of our courts.

    0

    0
  4. Well the outcome of this is going to have a significant impact on Caymans future. People think Dart owns a lot now Wait until they ask for repayment of the nearly 100 Million dollars already spent living up to their end of this deal if Cayman renigs on it, now that will be a battle to see or do these people think that the CIG should backup out of the deal and owe dart nothing ?

    No one can show any legitimate reason that this whole thing does not benefit Cayman. These are just a group of people determined to get their way no matter who is heart or how it negatively effects the island. Truly following the examples set by most of their leaders.

    0

    0

Comments are closed.