Legal change ‘clears the way’ for new developments

Pictured is the section of Seven Mile Beach land which was the subject of a court challenge last year. Government has now clarified property setback regulations regarding high-rise developments in the area, paving the way for future developments.

A number of “stalled” developments, particularly along Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach corridor, may be able to get under way now that laws regarding how high those structures can be built have been clarified, according to a recent legal analysis.

Walkers Global law firm, which reviewed the issue of property setbacks in the tourism corridor, noted Monday that amendments to planning regulations approved late last year kept those setback requirements the same for a 10-story building as for a seven-story building – 190 feet.

The legal changes also altered the definition of “setback” to include the horizontal distance between the high water mark and the building.

“This amendment is an important development in the law and one which clears the way for developers to reach new heights in the Cayman Islands,” the analysis by three Walkers attorneys stated.

A ruling in April 2016 by Grand Court Justice Seymour Panton had put into question the legality of new structures in the Seven Mile Beach corridor that proposed to reach above seven stories.

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Justice Panton’s decision 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 planning 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 each floor, four through seven, of a building.

The planning law regulations had not indicated what should happen with a building of between eight and 10 stories, Justice Panton said.

Essentially, the Walkers attorneys noted, the setback requirement for all such properties would be 190 feet.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush urged government members in November to support the development of even taller buildings in the tourism corridor, arguing in favor of 20- to 30-story buildings in the area. Now, no structure anywhere in the Cayman Islands stands higher than 10 stories.

“Cayman can’t be left behind our competitors. We need to think of places like Monaco and Singapore and what they have done,” Mr. Bush said. “I am saying it is time for us to move to different heights, to 20, 30 stories. We will save land, we will save property and it will be better for these islands.”

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