More than $4 million has been spent during the last two government budgets on land purchases related to the Linford Pierson Highway widening project.
The money for those purchases came from the fund government held for its George Town revitalization project, Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts confirmed Monday.
According to documents released by government, the revitalization project had more than $5.3 million in its budget during the 2015/16 fiscal year. By year’s end, that amount had been reduced to about $1.1 million. Most of that was spend on land purchases on either side of the Linford Pierson Highway expansion.
The money for the land claims was spent in stages. During the 2015/16 year, government initially transferred $1.9 million from the George Town revitalization project to the Linford Pierson Highway land purchases. An additional $1.6 million was transferred later in the year.
During the current government budget, Mr. Tibbetts said another $307,000 was paid in August for land purchases associated with the project, and that another $243,000 was paid as a “top up” to affected local landowners in February.
The Cayman Islands government is allowed to use compulsory acquisition powers to take land or even homes that stand in the way of a public right-of-way development project, such as the Linford Pierson Highway’s expansion from two to four lanes.
Typically, the landowners are compensated for the loss of their property but disputes over those initial compensation offers can last years in some cases.
According to Mr. Tibbetts, the government identified three homes along the northern side of the Linford Pierson Highway that needed to be demolished for the road’s expansion. The homeowners will be relocated by the government. “They’re desirous of remaining in the same neighborhood,” Mr. Tibbetts said late last year, adding that government would assist in the relocation.
The government is facing a dispute with one landowner on the westernmost end of the road widening project, near the intersection with Bobby Thompson Way.
Minister Tibbetts said that the landowner in this case disputed the amount of land the government proposed to take from their property to build the new road.
The widening of the two roads into central George Town is a key facet of the Progressives-led administration’s effort to revitalize the George Town area. The projects aim to relieve traffic congestion into the central business district from West Bay and the eastern districts.
The entire project will not finish during the current term of the Progressives-led government, but Minister Tibbetts has said he hopes it could finish in the second or third quarter of 2017.
“We can’t wait to do it,” the minister said. “The traffic in the eastern districts is now at the point where they’re experiencing the difficulty that they used to experience … before the East-West Arterial was built.”