A small tourism development on the George Town waterfront has been granted “after the fact” planning approval despite objections from the National Roads Authority, the Department of Environment and a neighboring landowner.
The Balboa Beach development, a rentals business aimed at tourists using the marine park, has been working its way through the planning process for more than two years.
An application was originally turned down by the Central Planning Authority in January 2015. It was resubmitted with some modifications and approved in April of the same year.
However that approval was overturned by an appeals tribunal, with landowner Kel Thompson part way through construction.
Mr. Thompson has now submitted a new application, under the name Water Front Center Ltd, and received “after the fact” approval from the Central Planning Authority.
The long-running saga could yet have further twists in the tale, however. Neighboring landowner Chris Johnson has indicated he will appeal the latest approval and go to court if necessary to get the building demolished.
He labelled it an eyesore and said the Planning Authority had ignored the advice of both the National Roads Authority and the Department of Environment, and granted variations to the minimum set-backs required on all sides of the property. He also questioned how Mr. Thompson had been able to continue building on the site once the planning permission was overturned on appeal.
“The message from this is that you can go and build without planning approval,” he said after the decision from the Central Planning Authority following the March 29 meeting.
Lawyers for Mr. Thompson told the Planning Authority the structure was already in place when planning approval was quashed and suggested the delays caused by the appeal had put the developer at a commercial disadvantage.
The Appeals Tribunal overturned the planning permission for the site in October 2016, after representatives from the Central Planning Authority acknowledged they had cited the wrong part of the law when they granted permission for the structure to be built closer to the ocean than is usually allowed.
Samuel Jackson, representing the applicant at the March planning meeting, argued that this was essentially a “typo” and that the appeals tribunal had punished his client for what was a clerical error.
He said the Central Planning Authority had considered the issue of the setbacks and had simply cited the wrong aspect of the law in their decision to allow approval. The Authority granted approval following the March meeting, citing a different section of the law, paving the way for the business to open.
Mr. Johnson said he believed the issue was not simply a clerical error. He said the setbacks granted on all sides were almost double what was allowed in law and he is asking the Appeals Tribunal to again quash the latest planning permission.
He said he was strongly against the development because it detracted from the aesthetic appeal of the ironshore coastline. “That site should be kept for the benefit of the Cayman Islands people,” he added.
Mr. Johnson also complained to the Department of Environment about work being done on the marine side of the development without a Coastal Works License. However, a department spokesman said environment officers were on site when that work took place and confirmed that the only work done was to remove rubble from a demolished dock.
The department did object to planning permission for the overall development, however, citing its proximity to the ocean.
“The proposed works will irreversibly detract from the vista and aesthetic appeal of the natural ironshore coastline in this area, which is an intrinsic part of the character of George Town waterfront,” it added.
The National Road Authority, in its submission to the Central Planning Authority also cited concerns that the parking lot for the development was too close to the road and would effectively make North Church Street a “maneuvering area” for vehicles backing out of the site.”
Mr. Jackson argued that once the business opened, the owner would be able to regulate use of the parking lot.
He suggested the development actually improved the look of the area.
He added, “It is hard to conceive how any reasonable person who can recall the state of the site before the development that now exists was completed could argue that the current has done anything other than to enhance the vista of the area.”