Two new hotel projects planned for Grand Cayman will not be required to go through Environmental Impact Assessments before being granted planning approval.
Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said Wednesday that the department would offer its opinion to the Central Planning Authority on the projects but would not require either developer to go through the extra step of an independent study.
The Howard Hospitality Group, which already owns and operates the Margaritaville Resort, wants to build a five-star luxury resort on the southern tip of Seven Mile Beach.
Developer NCB, meanwhile, has submitted plans for a 60-unit boutique hotel on the site of the old Treehouse restaurant, opposite Kirk Market in George Town.
In an update to the National Conservation Council on Wednesday, Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said the department had been consulted on both projects. She said it was familiar with the types of issues that might arise and did not need to commission an environmental impact assessment in either case.
“The magnitude and scope of the potential impacts really don’t warrant an EIA,” she told the council.
She added that the Howard group had met with the Department of Environment before submitting its application and revised some of the more problematic aspects of its plan.
The plans for the 7.1-acre site, which have yet to come before the planning authority, include five outdoor beachfront and poolside restaurants and bars, a spa and fitness facility, a landscaped boardwalk, a children’s center and 30,000 square feet of conference space.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said the second hotel includes a boardwalk and cabana but did not have any component that impacted the adjacent marine park, and the buildings met coastal set-back requirements.
Addressing criticism that environmental impact assessment requirements were shackling developers, Ms. Petrie said the procedure is used sparingly and only in cases where the necessary information or expertise is not already available.
She said the council is “far from bogging the entire country down in a requirement for EIAs” and had requested that only six projects face such assessments since the law came into effect last August. That figure represents less than 2 percent of the 346 applications reviewed by the Department of Environment on behalf of the council, she said.