Dart Realty insists its Seven Mile Beach hotel development will be environmentally friendly, despite concerns that the project plans do not sufficiently counter the threat of beach erosion.
Department of Environment officials acknowledged that the plans for a Kimpton hotel were significantly better than some existing developments along the beach.
But they believe more should have been done to take advantage of the extra space afforded to developers by the closure of a section of West Bay Road.
In a submission to the planning board, the DoE’s Technical Review Committee commented that: “Given the national precedent surrounding the closure of this section of West Bay Road and the potential provided by the removal of the road constraints, there is an excellent opportunity to showcase responsible coastal development and respect the natural beach system processes such as erosion and accretion.”
The DoE had no problem with the plans for the hotel to be set back 235 feet from the high watermark – much further back than existing resorts on the Seven Mile strip.
However, it expressed concern that a sea wall on the edge of the property was too close to shore, and recommended the structure be moved up to 40 feet further back to allow for the threat of beach erosion. “This will likely make the difference between ensuring the public’s access along the foreshore of the beach instead of in the water during periods of erosion,” states the submission.
In response, Dart Realty said it felt the setback for the wall, which was approved by the planning authority, was sufficient.
“The site plans do not include a sea wall but rather a low landscape wall between the public walking and biking path and the pool deck. This landscape wall will meet minimum setback requirements per planning laws,” the company said in a statement.
A string of other concerns listed by the DoE appear to have been considered by the developer. Dart Realty said it was incorporating turtle safe lighting into the design and would restrict heavy construction near the beach during nesting season.
A storm management plan has been drawn up addressing some of the environmental department’s concerns over runoff water caused by the elevated site for the development. The developer said it would use native vegetation to landscape the site and would follow Leadership in Energy Efficient Design Standards during the construction.
Planning permission was granted last month for the $200 million 265-room hotel and condo development, which will also feature six beach front bungalows.
Dart Realty announced last week that it had filed applications for building permits and was ready to start construction.
“Now that construction is mobilized, we will be proceeding with the highest consideration for Cayman’s natural environment,” said Gary Gibbs, executive manager for DECCO, Dart’s engineering and construction company.
“From our first building permit application for foundation work to the final finishes and landscaping, we will work to complete a project befitting Dart’s record for thoughtful development.”
Department of Environment officials say they are broadly happy with the measures taken by the developer to address environmental concerns, but stand by their submission that the wall should have been set further back from the water.