Government agreed Monday to take $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to buy part of Smith Cove to protect it from development.
Local developer Bronte had submitted a planning application to build two blocks of condos on the northern part of the property.
Though the developer said the buildings would be set well back from the beach and public areas, the application caused significant public outcry.
A Save the Cove group was established and a petition gathered 3,000 signatures in four days, while the National Trust joined calls to protect “a beloved area of great historic and cultural significance.”
Government stepped in and negotiated a deal to buy the property from owner TFG Cayman, who paid US$4.25 million for it, according to Lands and Survey records, and the application was withdrawn. The developer will also be refunded the stamp duty and other costs associated with buying the property and bringing it to the point of development.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has said the agreement will be vetted by Lands and Survey staff and will not exceed the costs to the developer.
Legislators unanimously voted Monday night for an appropriation of $5 million to cover the cost of buying the property “for the conservation of the natural environment and to benefit the people of the Cayman Islands.”
Environment Minister Wayne Panton told the Cayman Compass that figure could also include upgrades to the area. He said the specific purchase price was still to be determined. Meanwhile, campaigners who fought the development are planning a celebratory event at Smith Cove on Saturday.
Taura Ebanks, a vocal advocate for protecting Smith Cove, said, “I am excited that a deal is being worked on and the information is being shared publicly.”
She added, “Although we would love to see the contract signed and the ink dry, we are having a little bit of a celebration at the beach. We are asking people to come together and enjoy and appreciate what we have here and what everybody fought for.
“I think people showed you can stand up for something you believe in and you can do it the right way and the right thing can happen.”
She said the event would be a low-key affair, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., where people could bring their own coolers, jump off the rocks, swim and enjoy the sunset. A beach cleanup is also planned for Sunday from 6 a.m. with community groups including Academy Sports Club and Purple Dragon Martial Arts Club involved.
Morne Botes, who helped found the Save the Cove group, said, “We invite all to come and enjoy the beautiful Smith Cove on Saturday and see what we fought for. We are so glad the developer and government could come to an amicable agreement.”
He said a family in Webster’s Estate had also gifted four picnic benches and tables to the beach.