Premier: New hope for Dart deal

For Cayman Investment Alliance negotiations resume

After nearly a year of “no progress,” Premier Alden McLaughlin says he is hopeful that the impasse between government and Dart Realty Cayman Ltd. can be resolved within the next few weeks. 

“I’m taking something of a risk [making this statement] that it may all fall apart again in the end,” the premier told members of the Legislative Assembly during his budget address wrap-up last week. 

Mr. McLaughlin revealed that he met recently with Dart’s Chief Executive Officer Mark VanDevelde and believes “we have made significant progress and that we have a better understanding of what both sides require.”  

The premier also noted that he received “a very helpful letter” from Mr. VanDevelde on Tuesday.  

Mr. VanDevelde said Friday that he was “pleased with many of the Premier’s comments” in Legislative Assembly.  

“During our recent meeting and in the subsequent correspondence to the premier, we had the opportunity to review the meetings with government to date and provide additional options for addressing the hotel tax rebate,” Mr. Vandevelde said. “That our latest correspondence was considered helpful by the premier is a positive indicator that we should be able to address government’s concerns with the NRA [National Roads Authority] agreement in the near future. We share the premier’s view that it is beneficial to resolve this matter and put it behind us as soon possible, allowing us to work collaboratively with government on future investments, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy. We appreciate the premier’s engagement on this important matter.“ 

The NRA agreement referred to by Mr. VanDevelde comprised various areas of the For Cayman Investment Alliance project, a public-private partnership that involves, among other things, land swaps between the Dart group of companies and the Cayman Islands government.  

The initial agreement also involves concessions to the Dart group for the construction of a high-end Kimpton hotel at the site of the old Courtyard Marriott hotel on West Bay Road adjacent to Public Beach.  

“We thought there were aspects of [the agreement] that needed to be renegotiated and that we needed to come to terms which we believe the people of this country would find more acceptable and reasonable,” Mr. McLaughlin said.  

He did not discuss specific details of what government wanted the Dart group to change in the previously signed agreement.  

The NRA agreement was first signed by former Premier McKeeva Bush’s government, which had negotiated two later amendments to the deal that were never signed. However, Dart representatives have noted in public statements that the initial agreement was signed and therefore considered legally binding on the government.  

Dart’s Jackie Doak said in a public statement earlier this year that the company expected the Cayman Islands to honor its contractual obligations if a new agreement could not be negotiated.  

“The Dart group is a major and important player in Cayman’s economy,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “They’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars here, and they’ve given every indication that they wish to invest more. 

“We want to do everything we can to partner with them.”