Amendments to the Cayman Islands Development and Planning Law and regulations will allow for 10-story structures to be built in hotel/tourism zones in the islands without the need for greater property setbacks from the sea or the road.
The changes will also extend the time allowed for challenges to structures built without planning permission and will allow for more extensive enforcement on dilapidated properties.
Legislative Assembly members are due to vote on the changes during the next meeting of the House, tentatively set for early October.
The changes proposed for the planning law regulations are the result of a Grand Court decision this year that threw into question whether taller buildings in tourism zones should be built farther back from the waterline.
The decision by Grand Court Justice Seymour Panton on April 8 overturned earlier rulings by the Central Planning Authority and the Planning Appeals Tribunal that allowed Bronte Development Ltd. to proceed with the construction of two apartment buildings on Snooze Lane in George Town. According to the application, one of the apartment buildings was to be 10 stories and the other was to be four stories. The land is on a relatively narrow strip between the George Town Villas and the Grand View condominiums.
During the planning process, the authority received a number of objections to the new development from nearby strata members. Eventually, members of the Grand View Strata Corp. sued the developer and the Planning Appeals Tribunal, resulting in Justice Panton’s ruling.
In the 34-page judgment, Justice Panton identified the key issue, according to the court, as the existence of property setbacks – the distance the development must be from the high water mark on the beach side. Justice Panton noted that Development and Planning Law regulations, updated in 2011 and again in 2014, require all structures and buildings of up to three stories in a designated hotel/tourism zone to be set back at a minimum of 130 feet from the high water mark. An additional 15 feet should be added to the setback requirements for the fourth through the seventh stories of a building.
The planning law regulations do not indicate what should happen with a building of between eight and 10 stories, Justice Panton said.
“Critically, I think, there is no provision for a ten-storey structure,” the judge wrote in his decision. “A subsequent amendment in 2014 in this regulation clarified the measurements for the setback up to the seventh storey by increasing it to fifteen feet for each of the fourth through to the seventh storey; yet nary a word in respect to the eighth to the 10th storey. There cannot be an ‘anything goes’ attitude in relation to buildings over seven storeys.”
A statement from the premier’s office released Monday indicated that amended regulations “will state explicitly that … no further setback will be required for seven through 10 stories.”
Under the current development law, if a structure was built more than three years from the present date without planning permission, its construction cannot be challenged before the Central Planning Authority or the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman Development Control Board. The proposed legislation would set that period at five years.
“It will be more difficult for illegal and deficient structures to be built, as the [planning authority] will be able to enforce against these types of structures, even if they have existed for up to five years,” the premier’s office noted.
Also, the amended law seeks to bring wider powers to planning enforcement of dilapidated homes, including walls and fences surrounding the property.
If the legislation is approved, enforcement notices can be issued against fences, walls and derelict vehicles if it appears to the planning board that “an area is adversely affected or seriously injured by the ruinous, dilapidated or other condition” of the building, fence, wall or land due to the deposit of garbage, derelict vehicles or equipment.