Planning law changes give ‘teeth’ to derelict property enforcement

Wednesday's Legislative Assembly meeting may be the first time a government has not attended after being summoned to parliament. - Photo: Brent Fuller

Cayman Islands lawmakers are attempting to tackle the problems of derelict cars and properties, as well as property fences built too close to roads, in changes to the Development and Planning Law approved late Wednesday.

During a debate on the changes, Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden said there was one Savannah neighborhood where enforcement notices had been issued for derelict vehicles some time ago without corrective action being taken.

“What enforcement takes place in the services of [property] notices … without corrective action?” Mr. Eden said.

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts said he had received many of the same complaints from local property owners over the years and that the amendments to the law approved Wednesday were an attempt to address those issues.

“This is a sore topic in the minds of many because it is felt now that people are really allowed to do as they please and there’s no teeth in the law,” Mr. Tibbetts said.

The legal changes essentially give the planning department wider powers to force individuals, whether property owners or “the person responsible for causing the condition” of the property, to clean up their lands.

“This is a sore topic in the minds of many because it is felt now that people are really allowed to do as they please and there’s no teeth in the law.”

Enforcement against dilapidated properties under the amended law will include dilapidated homes, walls and fences surrounding the property, as well as derelict vehicles and overgrown, weeded lots.

An enforcement notice can be issued under the law if it appears to the planning authority that “an area is adversely affected or seriously injured by the ruinous, dilapidated or other condition” due to the deposit of garbage, derelict vehicles or equipment.

The new law also seeks to deal with fence or property wall “set backs” from the road, even in cases where those boundary fences are lower than 4 feet. The previous version of the planning law did not require permission from the Central Planning Authority to build walls or fences less than 4 feet high.

“This is not creating more bureaucracy, but I’m sure many of us have faced situation where people have erected fences on their boundary lines and they create a traffic hazard,” Mr. Tibbetts said.

The legislation, approved by a unanimous vote of the Legislative Assembly, also extends the length of time the planning authority can issue enforcement notices against structures that were built without board permission.

The board currently has three years from the date of construction to deal with unplanned structures on properties. The new legislation extends that to 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,” Premier Alden McLaughlin noted.

Other changes

Legislators were also expected to review amendments to planning regulations that clarify a legal dispute earlier this year about whether taller buildings in the Seven Mile Beach area require a greater property set back from the waterline.

The government has agreed to change regulations, following the prompting of the Grand Court in an April 8 ruling, to state that property set back requirements are no greater for buildings between seven to 10 stories than they are for shorter buildings.

The issue has affected the progression of at least one planned condo development under way in the Seven Mile Beach area.

The regulations have already been agreed and will be reviewed later in the current Legislative Assembly meeting.

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