A 10-story luxury condominium complex has been approved for the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, ending a four-year legal struggle over the height of buildings in Grand Cayman’s central tourism zone.
Aqua, which features a multimillion-dollar home on every floor, will be the fourth 10-story building on Seven Mile Beach after The WaterColours complex and the twin towers of the Kimpton Seafire resort.
Objections to the building’s height stalled the original application, culminating in a 2016 legal ruling that reversed the Central Planning Authority’s decision to grant approval and cast doubt on the authority’s power to sanction any structures over seven stories.
Though the Legislative Assembly had raised the allowable building height on Seven Mile Beach to 10 stories, it had not created accompanying regulations to dictate how far such buildings should be set back from the waterline.
In those circumstances, Justice Seymour Panton ruled, the Central Planning Authority did not have the authority to approve 10-story structures. He wrote in his judgment that there cannot be an “anything goes” attitude in relation to buildings over seven stories.
Government amended the regulations in September last year, and Bronte Development submitted a revised plan for the project earlier this year.
Bronte says the new plan is for 10 full-floor condominiums, with 360-degree ocean views and expansive indoor and outdoor entertaining areas. The four-bedroom homes will be in the $3.5 million range, and the building will feature five-star concierge services, according to a spokesman for the company.
Construction is expected to begin in January with a completion date in late 2019.
The development, which is on a narrow strip of land between George Town Villas and Grand View condominiums, originally attracted opposition from both stratas.
Bronte, in its submission to the Planning Authority, indicated it had held multiple meetings with the objectors and had revised its plans for the project – which initially included two buildings – based on their feedback.
There were still objections to the second application, however, with some residents arguing that the buildings’ height was out of character with an area that is dominated by three-story buildings.
“No buildings exceed the height of a palm tree,” according to one letter of objection. “The area is the first peaceful section of beach that cruise ship visitors get to enjoy when they walk out of town.”
In its submissions to the authority, Bronte argued that it was no longer economically feasible to develop low-rise buildings along Seven Mile Beach.
The company stated: “The existing surrounding condominium developments were mostly constructed decades ago at a time when property on Seven Mile Beach had a very different price bracket and there was ample land available to build outwards, rather than upwards.
“The most obvious way to conserve land availability and promote land utility is to develop upwards, rather than outwards. Land availability within the Seven Mile Beach Hotel/Tourism Zone is almost nonexistent, and, even without a clear legislated mandate, normal economic factors would dictate that the density and heights of buildings in that zone would increase for future developments, as less and less land is available for development.”
The developer argued that government had raised the allowable height for Seven Mile Beach to 10 stories precisely to allow for this type of development. “It would make an absolute nonsense of the obvious parliamentary intent to increase the heights of buildings in the Hotel/Tourism zone to insist that any new building must conform to the heights of existing buildings in that area of the zone.”
The Central Planning Authority approved the development last month and the deadline for appeals has now passed.
James Lagan, director of Bronte Property Group, said the developer had used the extra time to fine-tune the design.
“We felt there was a niche in the market for very high-end apartments; that is where the concept of 10 floors, one apartment per floor came from,” he said.