The Dart group has formally applied to remove more than 1,000 feet of beach rock from the shallow coastal waters off Seven Mile Beach.
Following a trial excavation last year, the developer has now submitted a full application to remove submerged rock fronting a property where it hopes to build a new five-star hotel.
In a letter supporting the Coastal Works Application, Dart Real Estate president Jackie Doak outlines plans for a 225-room hotel featuring 80 residences and 10 villas, next to the Kimpton Seafire Resort.
She suggests the hotel project will inject at least $600 million into the Cayman Islands economy over a five-year design and construction period.
The letter indicates that removing the exposed beach rock is required to facilitate the development. Dart says the excavation will raise the “recreational quality of the shoreline” to the same standard as the rest of Seven Mile Beach. The developer proposes to replace the rock with sand to make a more pleasant experience for swimmers.
The application, which had been anticipated since last year’s trial excavation, caused concern among environment officials, who opposed both the trial and the wider project. The Department of Environment, in an analysis of the original application, cautioned that removing the rocks would likely cause erosion and beach loss in certain areas along Seven Mile Beach. It also warned that allowing a developer to remove a natural feature for aesthetic reasons would set a “dangerous precedent” for the Cayman Islands.
Ms. Doak, in her letter supporting the full coastal works application, suggests that Dart has “addressed the technical concerns” raised by the department.
“Our coastal engineering consultants have evaluated the proposal using advanced computer modelling and found that beachrock removal would have minimal impact on the beach …
“Our proposal for beachrock removal is designed to retain the prevailing coastal conditions for neighboring properties and have no impact on land not owned by Dart Real Estate.”
Dart has submitted a report from coastal engineering consultants Calvin Giordano & Associates and Applied Technology & Management Inc. along with the application and indicated it would support the Department of Environment appointing a “mutually acceptable” firm to review the findings.
The consultant’s report indicates that there would be “increased shoreline recession” in front of the site outlined for Dart’s new hotel during storms but suggests this will be minor and limited to the Dart properties.
It goes on to suggest that the partial removal of the beach rock will actually make the shoreline in front of Tiki Beach and the Kimpton Seafire resort, which Dart also owns, more stable.
The developer also submitted an economic impact study, produced by Oxford Economics, which indicates the resort and residences will contribute a total economic impact of more than US$600 million during its five-year development and construction.
“The total development cost, including land acquisition, predevelopment costs, and construction costs will exceed US$465 million. Conservatively estimated, the five-star project would sustain 800 jobs at its construction peak and support 1,254 direct and indirect positions in the tourism industry once operations stabilise.
“Over 20 years, contributions to the Cayman Islands GDP would exceed US$1.7 billion or 2% of GDP, 4% of jobs and 3% of direct revenues to the Cayman Islands Government,” according to a Dart Real Estate press release.
Dart says its trial excavation of a small piece of beach rock last year demonstrated the feasibility of the project, which it says could be completed in a week.
It hopes to excavate 1,225 feet of coastline, removing 8,400 cubic yards of rock and peat.