Alexander Hotel owner reaches agreement with government
The owners of Cayman Brac’s Alexander Hotel have been given permission to excavate part of a neighboring pond, clearing the way for the venue to remain open.
The Dilbert family had initially announced that the hotel was closing after a plan to build a marina to get rid of the stench from the pond ran into difficulties amid a chorus of objection from environmental groups.
Cleveland Dilbert said Wednesday that negotiations with government this week were “successful” and that he has been given authority to begin work on the “basin section” of the pond, pending approval from Brac planning authorities.
“I am pleased to announce that the Alexander Hotel will not be closing at this time,” he said in a statement. “The decision to remain open has been made possible by successful negotiations with the heads of our government to address the poor smell of the pond, which has affected not only my business, but the island of Cayman Brac and its tourism product for some time.”
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell confirmed that an agreement had been reached that would allow the developer to proceed with the first phase of its development – excavation of just over a third of the pond. The terms of the agreement will be made public in a written memorandum of understanding, he said.
The wider plan, to cut a channel through the reef and across a road in order to transform the excavated pond into a marina for visiting yachts, will still be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Government and the Dilbert family were still ironing out an agreement on how that assessment would be funded.
But the current arrangement, at least, will allow the hotelier to deal with the issue that it believes has impacted his business’s bottom line the most – the odor from Salt Water Pond.
The pond was declassified as an animal sanctuary by legislators in 2012 and is said to be an important habitat for West Indian whistling ducks. The Department of Environment and the National Trust had raised a long list of concerns over the marina development. Many of those objections centered on the impact of connecting the pond to the sea, but also included the loss of one of the Brac’s few remaining wetlands and the resultant threat to bird life.
Government has indicated that it is happy for the Brac Development Board to make a judgment on the issue – as is the case with all planning applications on the island.
The wider marina project requires a decision from Cabinet because it involves coastal works.
Given that the Brac development board had publicly backed the full project for approval in its recommendation to Cabinet on the Coastal Works Application, it seems likely that the scaled down project will also be approved when a planning application is submitted.
Minister Kirkconnell, who is also a legislator for the Sister Islands, said he is happy the matter has been resolved and the hotel would remain open.
“The hotel is an important part of the tourism product on the Brac … We did have meetings with them which revolved around trying to find solutions to the concerns that they are having with the odor from the pond, and we have agreed a memorandum of understanding, which will be made public once it is complete,” he said.
The Dilbert family has produced a detailed rebuttal to concerns outlined by the Department of Environment about the wider marina project. The DoE had suggested the project was so damaging that an environmental impact assessment would not be worth the money.
But Mr. Dilbert believes an environmental impact assessment will prove many of the concerns expressed to be unfounded.
He added, “Although we do not claim to be experts in the field of studies of the environment; after extensive research and consultation on our part, we are very confident that the proposed project, overall, will prove to not pose as a threat.”