Brac hotel could shut down as marina plan hits roadblock
The owners of Cayman Brac’s Alexander Hotel are in talks with government to keep the struggling business open amid claims that the stench from a neighboring pond is turning off tourists.
Staff at the hotel were told over the weekend that it would be closing after an environmentally controversial proposal to transform part of Salt Water Pond into a marina for visiting yachts hit the rocks.
But the owners had walked back from that position on Monday and were hopeful that an alternative solution could be found.
Cleveland Dilbert, owner of the Alexander Hotel, said, “We don’t want to close the hotel and we hope we can find enough common ground to prevent that, but it is impossible for us to continue doing business with the stench coming from this pond.”
The hotelier had submitted plans to cut a channel through the reef and dredge part of the pond to develop the Brac’s first safe harbor.
Mr. Dilbert said the project would have provided a community service as well as dealing with the smell, a source of frequent complaint for tourists using the hotel’s outdoor bar.
But numerous environmental concerns were raised and the hotelier was told last week that he would be required to conduct and pay for an environmental impact assessment before a decision was taken.
The Department of Environment has already advised that it believes the project is so “fundamentally flawed” and “demonstrably damaging to the environment” that an environmental impact assessment would not be worth the expense.
Mr. Dilbert said it was unreasonable to expect him to spend up to $500,000 on an environmental assessment with no guarantees that the project would be sanctioned.
He acknowledged that the pond, which is a habitat for West Indian whistling ducks and was declassified as an animal sanctuary by legislators in 2012, was there long before the hotel.
But he said he and other landowners in the area had the right to develop their land and that he had been given assurances that something could be done about the stench before committing to developing the hotel.
Moses Kirkconnell, the tourism minister and a legislator for the Sister Islands, confirmed that government was attempting to work with the hotelier to find a solution to the impasse.
“The Alexander Hotel is a very important part of our tourism product in Cayman Brac and we are talking about how we can work through this,” he said.
It is possible that a compromise could be found to mitigate the smell from the pond without the marina plan being given the go ahead, though that too would likely face environmental challenges.
Mr. Dilbert declined to specify exactly what it would take to keep the hotel open.
“I’m hoping by tomorrow we can come back with a more positive statement and say we can keep this hotel open,” he added.
The Department of Environment in its review of the coastal works application raised serious concerns, including the impact on the reef inside a marine park, as well as beach erosion and sedimentation impacting dive sites.
It wrote, “Given the probability, magnitude and significance of the potential impacts, the DOE is confident that an EIA would likely not provide any additional justification or mitigation opportunities that would support approval or demonstrate that the benefits of the projects outweigh the costs.
“The DoE feels that it is unnecessary for the applicant to incur the cost associated with an EIA for a project that is so demonstrably damaging to the environment and fundamentally flawed.”