The Central Planning Authority has rejected the Dart group’s plan to expand the length of an overpass it is building on West Bay Road.
Representatives from the Dart group appeared before the CPA Wednesday in an effort to allay fears that the overpass would restrict beach access and cause traffic management issues, including access concerns for oversized vehicles. The National Roads Authority had objected to the proposal, saying there was not sufficient justification for the extension.
Though CPA chair A. L. Thompson described some of the NRA’s objections as “peculiar,” given that the roads authority had supported the initial tunnel application, planning officials confirmed Wednesday evening that the extension had been rejected.
The full reasons were not available at press time and are not likely to be available until a written decision is published next week.
A spokesperson for Dart said the company was awaiting the CPA’s official rationale for the decision before deciding its next steps.
Dart had been seeking to expand the length of the overpass, on West Bay Road, by another 195 feet. Permission was granted earlier this year, with the support of the NRA, for a 406-foot overpass, part of Dart’s plan to link its properties on Seven Mile Beach with Camana Bay.
Work on the tunnel is nearing completion, with the beams bridging the road put in place over the past few weeks.
The new application seeks to expand the overpass toward the Royal Palms Beach Club. Dart Real Estate announced it had purchased the site occupied by the Royal Palms in September.
The NRA supported the initial application but objected to the extension, arguing in written advice to the CPA that the developer had not provided sufficient justification to show that it was necessary.
It also highlighted issues with traffic management, including the difficulty of moving large pieces of equipment through the tunnel.
Christine Maltman, a senior manager at Dart, told the board the developer had always envisaged a 601-foot overpass. She said negotiations over the acquisition of the Royal Palms site had taken longer than expected, preventing the original application from including the full length of the tunnel.
Alex Russell, Dart’s senior manager for design, said the purpose of the overpass was to create “connectivity” and to allow for building over the road, extending Camana Bay from the North Sound to Seven Mile Beach.
He said it was too early to say what type of buildings would go over the road and Dart was still developing its “master plan” for the area.
Ms. Maltman said she could not explain the NRA’s opposition to the extension.
“I am not sure why their memo contained some of the things it did, especially since they fully approved the original application,” she said.
The NRA’s memo, released with the agenda papers to the meeting, argued that it should be the final decision-making authority on the application and concluded, “Ultimately, there is no justifiable reason or need to extend the tunnel and the NRA Board’s decision is not to approve the application.”
Mr. Thompson suggested at the meeting that some of the NRA’s concerns, particularly about the height of the tunnel, should have been raised earlier.
“We are not talking about something that hasn’t already been done,” he said. “We are talking about an extension here and, quite frankly, some of the comments by the NRA should have been made when the application was first presented.”
Mr. Russell said there were three “clear to the sky” routes through Camana Bay that could be used for vehicles carrying equipment that could not fit through the tunnel, though he suggested this would be a rare occurrence.
Dart representatives also attempted to address concerns raised by citizens about rights of way to the beach.
Dart acknowledges that the overpass, at its extended 601-foot length, cuts off access to two paths to Seven Mile Beach. It proposed removing and consolidating these into one larger path along the Royal Palms property. The CPA requires developers provide a six-foot access path for every 200 feet of land. Dart proposed consolidating that into a single 12-foot wide access across the length of its property.
Alice Mae Coe and Ezmie Smith of the Concerned Citizens Group, which has fought a long-running campaign to preserve beach access, were among the members of the public at the meeting Wednesday.
Ms. Smith said she felt consolidating the beach accesses was not adequate.
“The CPA, according to the planning regulations, has a duty to protect and safeguard public access to the beach and we hope they will do that” she said.
Section 20 of the 2015 planning regulations states, “It is the duty of the Authority to ensure that the open character of scenic shoreline land is preserved, in particular that of the beaches, and also to safeguard the public’s right to use the beaches and to gain access to them through public rights of way.”