For generations, the urban plan in the Cayman Islands has been dictated by changing circumstances.
The next plan will seek to guide those changes instead of react to them, according to planning officials.
Haroon Pandohie, director of Cayman’s Department of Planning, said Monday that the government is preparing to release its next urban planning document, “Plan Cayman,” for public perusal.
This new plan, he said, will attempt to shape the future of Cayman by anticipating where people will live, where they will work and how they will get to every stop in between.
Mr. Pandohie, speaking at the Road Safety Conference being hosted by the National Roads Authority this week, said that past iterations of Cayman planning have been prone to incrementalism and fixing problems only as they crop up one at a time.
“Unfortunately, here in the Cayman Islands, we’ve equated planning with, ‘Let’s just get to the end as quickly as possible.’ And what happens after that is someone else’s problem,” he said. “Unfortunately, as we see every single day, that becomes our problem. We’re the ones stuck in traffic. We’re the ones funding roads. We’re the ones saying, ‘Well, why can’t you just build a wider road?’ That means we have to remove houses.”
He added, “It’s interesting when you think about planning and land-use planning. The problems that we face today as a first-world country are problems we created for ourselves.”
Plan Cayman is expected to be released by the end of next week, and then the Department of Planning will accept public feedback from October through the end of December. After that, the government would hope to put the plan in effect and begin rezoning parts of Cayman in early 2019.
Mr. Pandohie said that he hopes to create zones where people can both live and work, and he wants the future of Cayman development to proceed with an eye on future demographics.
“The goal is to carve the island up into specific areas and come up with regulations and a vision that meets the needs of those areas,” he said. “How do we address land use, infrastructure and socioeconomic needs in these specific areas? And how do we come up with the best mix and the best modes of transportation that support the character of that area that you wish to have?”
Plan Cayman is expected to ultimately replace the 1997 Development Plan for Grand Cayman, and it will incorporate a planning statement, a general plan, detailed area plans and a zoning map.
The idea, though, is to try to shape the future by building a blueprint for the most efficient ways to grow, Mr. Pandohie said. Mass transit cannot be efficient, he explained, unless it serves an economy of scale. And right now, for too many people, driving is the only way to get from home to work and back.
“Unfortunately, for far too long, traffic safety and how it interacts with land-use planning has been an afterthought,” he said. “We build it, they come, and then we figure out, ‘How do we move them around?’ We build 100-something homes, and then we’re shocked to know that in excess of 100 people show up to live in those homes. We build it. We fully stock it. And then we say, ‘Where do those people work? Where do they go for entertainment? Where do they shop at? How do they get around?’”
Fundamental change in Cayman’s transportation grid will take time, but Mr. Pandohie said that problems of congestion and traffic cannot be confronted without being proactive. In this case, he said, that means completely rethinking how Grand Cayman’s neighborhoods are zoned.
“We look at, ‘Is an area … primarily residential? Is it an employment center? … Is it a peripheral pattern with a core? Do we have corridors or do we have satellites?’” Mr. Pandohie said. “In most jurisdictions, that land-use pattern is driven by your transportation network. Depending on the availability of your transportation network, land use fills in that corridor. But again, we find ourselves here in Cayman where we create a land use and afterwards say, ‘Can I get a road, please?’”