The level of precision, conscientiousness and coordination that goes into the creation of a building is truly remarkable.
From the developer’s proposal, to the architect’s conception, through the engineer’s calculations and the construction crew’s toil — every square foot, every dollar and every hour must be accounted for so that the finished project lives up to its design and fulfills its purpose.
It’s too bad that our public officials cannot be bothered to exercise an equivalent amount of attention to detail when formulating laws and discharging duties. The government’s negligence in regard to development regulations has caused a major project on Seven Mile Beach to be halted, frozen the future construction of all buildings in the Cayman Islands above seven stories, and potentially introduced uncertainty into our country’s real estate market.
Earlier this month, Grand Court Justice Seymour Panton overturned rulings by the Central Planning Authority and Planning Appeals Tribunal that had allowed Bronte Development Ltd. to construct a 10-story apartment building on Snooze Lane along the southern portion of Seven Mile Beach. Essentially, Justice Panton determined that planning officials could not grant approval for the construction of the 10-story building because planning law regulations do not outline setback requirements for buildings eight stories and above.
He wrote, “There cannot be an ‘anything goes’ attitude in relation to buildings over seven storeys.”
He added, “The limitation in the regulation to seven storeys mean, in my view, that the Central Planning Authority is restricted to dealing with a building of seven storeys. This is so until there is an amendment that provides for what is to happen in the case of buildings over seven storeys.”
The potentially adverse effect of the judge’s ruling to the economy should be obvious. It precludes the approval of what would by definition be among the largest real estate developments in Cayman. If the decision had been handed down earlier, it most likely would have, for example, forestalled the construction of Dart’s Kimpton hotel and the WaterColours condominiums.
More generally, the judge’s overturning of the planning approvals may send a chill down the spines of many developers who might not feel they can trust the green lights being given to them by appointed citizen panels charged with interpreting and implementing, apparently, unclear and incomplete law.
The government’s — pick your favorite adjective: piecemeal, helter-skelter, slapdash, etc. — approach to development regulations is analogous to its approach to many areas of administrative law, including immigration. On some subjects, there is simply far too much at stake to leave anything to chance or legal challenge.
In the short term, it behooves lawmakers to heed the judge’s advice and convene a meeting of Cabinet immediately in order to fix this oversight. The simplest way to bring maximum clarity to the situation might be to toss out building height restrictions altogether in the Seven Mile Beach corridor and allow the market, rather than fumbling government regulators, to dictate the future development of Grand Cayman’s economic crown jewel.