North Side legislator Ezzard Miller defended plans for three new roads in the district and accused the National Conservation Council of being “out of touch” for requesting an environmental impact assessment before the roads could be gazetted.
Mr. Miller, in a personal statement to the Legislative Assembly on Monday, said the proposed roads – a highway linking Rum Point to Bodden Town and two farm roads – were the result of 10 years of discussions with landowners and farmers in the area.
He said his request to Cabinet for the farm roads to be gazetted was supported by a petition from 73 landowners in the area who, he said, knew the “topography of the route” better than anyone on the Department of Environment or the National Conservation Council.
“This preposterous, idiosyncratic and idiopathic proposal by the DoE and the unjustified, unrealistic and irrational acceptance by the National Conservation Council of such a proposal that the two farm roads and the highway extension to Driftwood Village need EIAs before gazettal is beyond belief and any form of rational thinking.”
He added, “It is disappointing and concerning but may be an explanation of how out of touch the DoE and the National Conservation Council is, that they have not heard and seen any of the 10-year-long public discussion of these two farm roads by the agricultural society, farmers, the North Side council and myself.”
The conservation council reviewed the road proposals at its meeting last Wednesday and expressed concern that they were not part of any strategic national roads plan.
“The arbitrary selection of a road corridor without any strategic assessment is not something the DoE can support,” Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, said in a presentation to the council.
In its screening opinion on the proposal for the four-mile stretch of highway through the Central Mangrove Wetlands, given to council members at Wednesday’s meeting, the DoE technical review committee stated, “The need for a public road along this route has not been objectively evaluated. Large tracts of pristine primary habitat of high ecological and biodiversity value will be adversely affected with the proposed route alignment.”
The report described the Central Mangrove Wetlands as the “ecological heart” of Grand Cayman.
In his statement Tuesday, Mr. Miller described the area as a “swamp.”
He said, “They may have some minor reasons to be concerned by the highway going through the swamp. Yes, I use the word swamp instead of their more scientific or environmental sounding Central Mangrove Wetlands, because this area is the same as the swamp that was filled in to develop Seven Mile Beach area. It is only after you cross Prospect and get to poor people land that swamps becomes wetlands. The owners of swamp on the western peninsula were all allowed to extract the economic development potential of their swamp by filling it, but now that it is poor people land in North Sound and Bodden Town it has been renamed wetlands and cannot be developed.”He suggested the proposal could help turn the swamp into the “Fort Lauderdale of Grand Cayman” and allow landowners to get economic value from their property.
He also questioned the need for traffic studies to justify the gazetting of the routes for the two farm roads.
“The farm road is not designed or justified on its impact on traffic patterns or demands; it is being built to give farmers motor vehicle access to their farms,” he said.