Guns, fast cars for East End?

The site of a former quarry in East End may be transformed into a locus of recreational activity, as planning officials Wednesday are set to consider plans for a $1.45 million sport shooting complex, a month after they approved an application for a $2 million auto racing track.

The proposed shooting complex and race track would be on the same 230-acre parcel of government-owned land in a remote area off High Rock Road, in the middle of the district of East End, according to Central Planning Authority records.

Gun club

In March 2012, the Caymanian Compass reported that the Cayman Island Sport Shooting Association, also known as the gun club, had signed a lease to 83 acres of Crown property, allowing the group to move from its current location on about 5 acres near Owen Roberts International Airport. At the time, then-Premier McKeeva Bush and then-Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly lauded the transaction.

According to the gun club’s application, “As you know the existing range near airport is on [Cayman Islands Airports Authority] property and will be shut down to allow the eventual expansion of the airport. It is a very important facility as all sport shooting in the Cayman Islands occurs there.”

The “international class sport shooting complex” will allow the gun club to host international shooting competitions, according to the agenda for the planning meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

“The Government has also been kind to allow a concession on the planning fees due to the fact that this is a non-profit organization and it is critical to the [Royal Cayman Islands Police Service],” according to the application.

“The RCIPS will continue to use this range for important firearm training.”

About a half-dozen people objected to the gun club’s application, mainly expressing concerns about noise and possible contamination of the East End water lens.

The Department of Planning said the planning authority should consider the possible nuisance of the shooting facility, and said the property is indeed over a water lens, but is also the site of the former High Rock Quarry.

“The issue of allowing development over the water lens would appear to have already been accepted,” the department said.

Hot rods

Despite similar objections over noise levels, in early September the planning authority approved an application from the Cayman Hot Rod Association for a “commercial auto race track facility,” according to planning records.

The facility would include a drag strip and circuit track.

William Ebanks Jr., representing the association, said the facility would be used once or twice a month, according to minutes from the meeting.

The Department of Environment said 35 percent of the proposed location is “pristine primary habitat” for rare native species.

“Therefore, the applicant should be required to ensure that to the greatest extent possible, the racetrack and ancillary facilities are situated on previously disturbed land to minimize the impact upon the primary habitat. Given the challenges posed by constructing a flat racetrack upon highly fissured karst limestone, this approach will also likely be in the applicant’s best interest from a development cost perspective,” according to the environmental department.

Also representing the association, Duane Bodden said the track would be built using existing grades and there would be no blasting.

The planning authority OK’d the racing facility, including the stipulations that there be a noise mitigation plan ensuring that the maximum level of sound would be 80 to 85 decibels at the boundary of the site, and that there be no land clearing for the circuit track until the drag strip has been built.

Cayman’s racing community has been without an official home since December 2011, when Breakers Speedway held its last official race. U.K.-based developer Crown Acquisitions Worldwide purchased the Breakers site from Robert Campbell’s Race Ltd. in November 2012 for US$1.65 million.

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