The Alexander Hotel closed its doors on Sunday as its owners’ plans to build a marina on the premises continued to cause controversy and allegations of favoritism on Cayman Brac.
Former Premier McKeeva Bush took up the cause of the Dilbert family – owners of the struggling hotel – in the Legislative Assembly on Friday evening.
He questioned why the Dilberts had been required to carry out and pay for an environmental impact assessment on their marina project, while two separate marina plans submitted by another developer were approved by Cabinet, without the same requirement.
The Department of Environment had recommended that the Dilberts’ plan be refused, saying it was “demonstrably damaging to the environment.”
But following a meeting of the Legislative Assembly on the Brac in April, government said the hotel was so important to the Brac economy that it would go against that advice and sanction the project – pending the results of an environmental impact assessment.
Cleveland Dilbert announced the closure of the hotel earlier this month, saying he had become frustrated with the lack of progress and had lost faith that government would “keep its word” and let him deal with the stench from a neighboring pond.
The marina project – if it ever goes ahead – would involve cutting a channel through the reef, across a shallow lagoon and over a road, and excavating the pond to create a safe harbor for visiting yachts.
“The hotel closed on Sunday and will remain closed indefinitely. It will not open its doors again until something is done with regard to the pond,” Damien Dilbert said Tuesday. The Dilberts say the smell from the pond is killing their business and their reputation.
During Friday’s hearing of the Legislative Assembly, it emerged that Cabinet had given approval to two applications from developer Mirjana Mirjanic – one close to Carib Sands and the other on the opposite coastline, close to Scott’s dock.
“The two applications did not, in the view of the Department of Environment, necessitate an environmental impact assessment in order to ascertain what the potential impacts would be in relation to the marine environment. The department was of the view that those applications were on a scale which they could well understand and predict,” said Environment Minister Wayne Panton under repeated questioning from an increasingly irate Mr. Bush.
He added that both applications differed from the Dilberts because they did not involve breaching the “storm ridge.” One of them is in the lee of the existing Scott’s dock, where the area had already been dredged.
Mr. Bush said there had been too much “shenanigans” and “nancy stories” and it was not fair to Mr. Dilbert to have to pay for an environmental impact assessment when others did not. He said one of the approved marinas was close to the MV Capt. Keith Tibbetts wreck dive site and expressed surprise that the Department of Environment had not asked for an impact assessment.