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.

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  1. 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.

    And the day that happens in the Cayman Islands is the day the safety and security of all who lives here becomes secondary to the ‘golden rule’.

    He who owns the gold…rules.

    The Cayman Islands is already seen, worldwide, as a country operating under the ‘golden rule’, to the exclusion of any other rule…and that perception is already causing more problems than many would care to admit.

    Those building height restrictions were originally set in place because that same 7-Mile Beach land corridor is the same air route corridor for commercial aircraft flights coming into Owen Roberts Intl Airport on a daily basis.

    One only has to watch the commercial aircraft flying into Grand Cayman from the 7-Mile Beach to see where higher buildings in that area can be a danger to aircraft when they are just beginning their descent into ORIA.

    The judge has ruled and advised correctly on this case.

    We should be thankful that at least one pillar of the society, the judiciary, is not working according to the ‘golden rule’

    I highly doubt that the intention of the ruling judge, in this case, was intended to throw out those building height restrictions altogether, thereby comprising the safety of aircraft, their passengers and the entire country on the ground…

    For the benefit of those that live by the ‘golden rule’.

  2. For the most part, I agree with the editorial’s view that the future of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach district is too important to leave to a “hodgepodge” of rules and regulations concerning building height in the district. Sound, precicise and legally unchallengeable rules and regulations should be the norm. This should apply to the entire island; not just the SMB corridor.

    As I wrote this in the wee hours of the morning, my comments turned into a long diatribe on the evels of over development and spot zoning evidenced in so many cities around the world. I’ve deleted most of those thoughts. Even though as I was wrting them, they sure sounded good to me. Each word made me feel much better for having voiced my opinion. Thank goodness for the “delete” key!

    To summarize my thoughts, I will simply say Grand Court Justice Seymour Panton may have been on the right track about the dangers of an ambiguous building code and loose regulations. Whereas, in my opinion, the Cayman Compass is dead wrong in its suggestion that the “market place” (i.e. developers and speculators) determine the look, feel, idea and design of Grand Cayman.

    Allowing the “marketplace” to determine the look and form of developemnt on the island really is not the best way to plan this island’s future. Historically the “marketplace” is driven by developers, planners and revenue hungry governments. Many exaples of development projections (guesses) that have gone wrong can be cited by Compass readers, including this one. One could argue mistakes by developers based on calculations of well intensioned (but mistaken) planners are only felt by those developers and investers. The truth is, those mistakes are felt by all of us. Take a look at the emply shells of unfinished projects scattered around the island. Think about the well intentioned buyers of failed Condominium projects that never broke ground, but still generated professional fees and commissions for planners and developers. Or, look closely around the island at congested, overcrowded roads featuring unsafe design bordered by low occupancy strip malls that feature tiny parking bays (every new car owners nightmare) and you will see what I mean. These are all examples of poor design driven my profit maximization, not concerns for quality of life.

    The look, and feel of Cayman should be determined by its residents, property owners and others who have a real stake and committment to the island. Government should be charges with ensuring the wishes of the people are carried out, plans respect quality of life factors, sound financing and responsible (and legal) construction standards. Not by developers and investors whose only consideration is profit. After all, the bottom line for developers is “will it make me money?”. If it does, they will take a chance. If not, the project will never get off the ground. The bottom line for Cayman should be “will the project enhance quality of life, be a respectful neighbor, bring jobs and financial benefit to residents?

    Some developers may have the luxury to waiting a bit longer to earn those profits, but no successful businessman will construct a building to lose money. If they do, they are not a businessman, they are a philanthropist or a bureaucrat. Plane and simple. Strong building and construction regulations benefit all. Today and tomorrow.

  3. Saudi Arabia announces Vision 2030- to help get the Kingdom off “big oil” and diversify its economy by 2030.

    In Cayman- Vision 2008 still stuck in the mud and our glorious politicians sitting and bickering. We need a clean slate for 2017 and fresh blood and bold leadership in the LA come next May. If we are so foolish to elect the usual suspects we along with our kids are grandkids are doomed forever. Sad but true.

  4. If the market place controls the height of buildings we will end up with 20-30 story buildings Is that what we really want?? I think not. I realize that money rules but at some point you lose all self respect. Are we always going to sell ourselves to the highest bidder? Not a good idea. There has to be some rational vision for what SMB is going to look like. As I said yesterday to stick a 10 story building between two 3 story condos just doesn’t look good. The government should get some experts in a number of fields and figure out what we want the island to look like in 20 years from now