Waterfront development proceeds despite complaints

Work continued Sunday on the property Kel Thompson is developing to feature a tour operator ticket sales location, restrooms and a mobile food truck area on North Church Street. The project has drawn the ire of a neighboring land owner, who believes it will negatively impact the beautification project under way in the area. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Work on a new tourism business on the George Town waterfront is progressing despite concerns from a neighboring landowner that it is negatively impacting plans to construct a boardwalk and beautify the area.

The development, which includes a tour operator ticket sales area, restrooms and a mobile food truck area, is planned for a section of oceanfront across for the Waterfront Centre on North Church Street.

The project, initially turned down by the Central Planning Authority, was approved with some modifications in April 2015.

Chris Johnson, a neighboring landowner, has appealed the decision to the Planning Appeals Tribunal. If he is successful on appeal, Mr. Johnson says he will insist on the buildings being demolished.

He has further complained to the Department of Environment that marl from the project is spilling on to the beach.

Mr. Johnson said he could not understand why the project had been approved in the first place, saying it was being done with no consideration for George Town’s beautification.

Kel Thompson, the developer behind the project, did not respond to requests for more information about the development from the Cayman Compass.

Minutes from the Central Planning Authority indicate that Mr. Johnson lodged an objection at the time through his son Robert Johnson, an architect.

Among other complaints, Robert Johnson said, the project would negatively impact the boardwalk plan.

The new building on North Church Street will have restrooms and a tour ticket sales location. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
The new building on North Church Street will have restrooms and a tour ticket sales location.
– PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

“This development will ultimately impact the beautification project initiated by my client, on the immediately joining land to the north, which is to operate like a park and to enhance the public space in the area,” he wrote.

“Working with the plans for the George Town boardwalk project, my client has made his site easily accessible and has built a sidewalk so people can visit the beach or enjoy ocean views as they pass through central George Town. The proposed development compromises these efforts by operating a food truck next to my client’s site, which will attract hagglers and undesirables. In short, it will degrade the public space my client is constructing next door.”

Central Planning Authority minutes indicate that the authority originally refused the application, citing the setback variances from the road and the high water mark that would be required. At a later meeting, it approved a resubmitted version of the plan, acknowledging that several other developments in the area had been granted setback variances and approved the development. The development was improved with some conditions, including the location of the site’s sewage treatment plant.

The Department of Environment raised several objections during the original application process and questioned the suitability of the rocky beach area, which it said was only created by coastal changes after Hurricane Ivan, for permanent structures.

The DoE analysis also raised concerns about the impact of construction and operations on the marine environment. It added, “The proposed works will irreversibly detract from the vista and aesthetic appeal of the natural ironshore coastline in this area which is an intrinsic part of the character of the George Town waterfront, and which is becoming increasingly rare.”

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t understand why there’s no planning law in place to say that you must own so much property say 100 ft × 100ft lot before you are given permission to build any thing . Where is all the sewage from these buildings going ? Do Cayman have a central sewage system yet ? What is the size of this building ? In the picture it looks like it’s big enough for two bathrooms , and not a ticket sales office too .

    What I think that this building is for is to operate the food mobile truck with bathroom . It should not be allowed because like what Mr Johnson said it would attract hagglers .

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  2. I too respect the rights of native born Caymanian people to have their businesses and enjoy their birthrights. However I do not believe native born Caymanian “own” this island. All of us, native born or foreign born, who own property here only are caretakers of the land. We are intrusted with what is right for the land, for the environment and for all who live of visit.

    Shame on the Building Department for allowing this construction to start, and now to proceed.

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    • clarification: The last line in the first paragraph should read “We are intrusted to do what is right for the land, for the environment, for Cayman and for all who live of visit.”

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  3. Now Mr Johnson, Hagglers and undesirables ? who are these Hagglers and undesirables may I ask, you are referring to? I dare not think that you are referring to the LOCALS? my advice to you is, ‘DONT GO THERE”.
    Anytime a Caymanian try to get a little piece of the beach or waterfront pie, some Ugly Head arises from the ocean, No, No, Mr. your place is inland to the bushes.

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  4. Mrs Vargas

    With all due respect you have no clue about the property. Over the years there have been several problems with undesirables. You may confirm that with people in the know.
    To fully understand the problems of this rediculous Micky Mouse development you need review all the planning files and further educate yourself.
    I would be happy to return to the bushes. Do you have any particular bushes in mind?

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  5. Mr Johnson I do not know of the Micky Mouse development you are referring to, and I have seen some of Mr Kel Thompson’s buildings on the Island, and I would expect nothing but equal good.
    My concern is however, your comments in referring to some people as “Hagglers and undesirables”, is not being taken with a grain of salt. They are fighting words on this island and you need to realize we are a small community.

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  6. Ms Vargas. If you are not acquainted with this project so well summarized by the Compass then how are you able to pass judgment. May I suggest you visit the site but beware of the danger of the pit and try not to fall on the excessive marl. The latter can easily cause great concern and act as a poison if not treated properly.
    In the past twenty years there have been hagglers and undesirables whom I have seen with my very own eyes. My observations lead me to believe that none of them are expat lawyers, accountants or other members of the financial community. However I could be wrong.
    By the way you mention small community. When I arrived Cayman consisted of 10,000 residents. Now that is indeed a small community.

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  7. Mr Johnson l think you should make an apology to the people of Cayman , for your remark about the people of Caymanians being undesirables and hagglers , if they are not part of the financial services industry.

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  8. Please note ‘undesirables and hagglers’ were terms used by me to describe what may happen when Thompson starts parking a food truck on this site, if he’s allowed to finish his development. Please re-read paragraph 4 from the bottom, which is a statement I made to the planning board. These terms are used often when describing a state of the built environment when homeless and mentally unstable people populate areas, which is very much the case here in George Town. The government has chosen to ignore some major problems in town, such as homelessness, the lack of quality public space and the lack of necessary infrastructure. Chris (my Dad) and I are trying hard to put sidewalk down along North Church Street as well as create a public beach (where the fishermen are) for all to enjoy. I am saddened to read that the people commenting here have misunderstood. Chris needs to be applauded for what he’s doing to his property that is to operate like a park for tourists and locals to enjoy. He has also paved a sidewalk which government should really have paid for and should be building along North Church Street -especially given the number of hit-and-runs.

    The development we are appealing against is Thompson’s next door. A very capitalist approach from an aggressive developer where people will be charged for the use of the beach and a food truck will serve fast-food. This in stark contrast to Chris’ beautification efforts and his beach property, which visitors can enjoy for free. Thompson’s development is also a disappointment because large slabs of concrete are to be poured on the natural vista waterfront (which there isn’t much left in town). It will look awful and put forward a cheap tourism product next to the Royal Watler Terminal. Unfortunately GT will suffer as a result.

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