The northerly part of Smith Cove has been in private ownership since the first official countrywide land survey was conducted in the 1970s.
The 2.5-acre plot comprises part of the smaller beach, a rocky outcrop and a grove of seagrape trees. Though the plot has been used for many years by the public for weddings and baptisms, as well as weekend barbecues and Easter camping, it is zoned for beach resort/residential and could have been developed, subject to planning approval, at any point over the past four decades.
It was originally owned, along with the three other plots that comprise Smith Barcadere and the carpark, by William Webster, George McMurray and Jerry Webster.
The main beach, part of a half-acre plot, was gifted to the governor for public use for a peppercorn in 1978 on condition that “no trade or business whatsoever” is carried out at the site, according to land transfer documents reviewed by the Cayman Compass.
A second half-acre lot to the south of the main beach was sold to the governor for public use at the same time for $35,000, while the parking area was given for a peppercorn.
The owners sold the northern plot in 1996 for US$450,000 to two companies – Auric Enterprises and George Town investments – the records indicate.
It was bought in 2003 by Stan Thomas, the Atlanta-based developer of the Courtyard Marriott hotel. The Dart group bought the property in January 2011, along with the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and the hotel – now the site of the new Kimpton Seafire – from Mr. Thomas.
Ownership was transferred to Sparrowhawk Ltd., one of the companies Dart uses for land holdings.
Both the Stan Thomas and Dart deals involved multiple other properties, and no record is listed for the specific price paid for the Smith Cove lot.
The records show that TFG Cayman Ltd., which is behind the new planning application, acquired the property from Sparrowhawk for US$4.25 million in September last year. Dart Realty confirmed Thursday that it had sold the site after it received an unsolicited offer in 2015.
Before then, Dart had put the property on the negotiating table during discussions around the National Roads Authority Agreement.
According to a PwC review of the agreement in 2013, the third amendment to that proposal contained a clause to transfer the Smith Cove land to government in return for giving up rights of way through some Dart properties to Seven Mile Beach. Private landowners are legally required to create rights of way to the sea at 200 foot intervals. Dart had proposed consolidating these access points at the edges of its property.
The Dart group confirmed to the Compass on Thursday that the deal was not accepted.
The company said, “In early 2013, as part of a proposed package for the 3rd Amendment to the NRA Agreement, we did include 7C70 and other alternate parcels along with public right of way consolidations. The intent was to relocate or consolidate existing and future access points to be meaningful and useful to the public in conjunction with land transferred to government for public beaches.
“This proposal to consolidate the public rights of way on Seven Mile Beach was not accepted by government, and as a result the 7C70 exchange was removed from the 3rd Amendment in mid-2013.”