A neighborhood in Newlands has become ground zero for a slew of concerns and disputes over use of Grand Cayman’s residential canals.
Residents in North Sound Estates say they are fed up with what they describe as antisocial behavior in the canals. Complaints range from the dumping of derelict boats to commercial fishing operations using the canals.
Residents say deep sea fishing vessels frequently moor up in the canals to unload their catch, with the crew often living on the boats for several days, before returning to sea.
Newlands legislator Alva Suckoo has taken up the cause and is calling for changes to the law to allow the planning department more power to deal with complaints in the canals. He believes the issues in Newlands are reflected in canal-side communities across Cayman.
He said there was a wide range of issues.
“There are environmental concerns, concerns that people are using residential canals to run businesses, there are people coming in with their fish and living on the boats for days at a time,” he said.
Mr. Suckoo said he was particularly concerned about discarded boats tied up to the mangroves.
“What happens if there is a storm and those boats end up in someone’s yard?” he asked.
As the law stands, he said, it was not clear whether the Port Authority, the police, planning, immigration or the Department of Environmental Health was best placed to deal with the variety of complaints emanating from residents of the North Sound Estates.
He said some of the issues, including the use of the canal by oversized vessels, in some cases of greater than 100 feet in length, were not currently illegal but were considered a nuisance by residents.
“What we really need is an extension of the planning laws to deal with canals,” he said.
North Sound Estates is a residential neighborhood with one main canal and 26 small tributaries, with homes lining them.
On Nancy Street, a large red cargo boat of around 100 feet in length has been tied up to an empty lot for several years. It does not belong to the owner of the lot and residents have been unable to get it moved.
The presence of the Cayman Aggressor – a 110-foot liveaboard dive boat, tied up in the canals – also caused concern for some residents. Wayne Hasson, the owner of the business, told the Cayman Compass it was tied up to his own land and was no longer used for commercial purposes since the Aggressor upgraded to a newer vessel. He said he was keeping it there temporarily until he could move it to the U.S.
Elsewhere, smaller boats that appear to have been abandoned have been tied up to the mangroves.
Several residents also told the Compass that multiple lots in the neighborhood were being used by commercial fishing operations. They claim fishermen are offloading their catch and, in some cases, living on board, causing noise disturbances and defecating in the canals.
Some of them appear to be associated with legitimate fishing operations, though residents have questioned whether offloading in a residential neighborhood is a breach of planning regulations that restrict commercial activity in residential communities.
Olson Anderson, chair of the Newlands District Council, said residents were also concerned about the behavior of the fishing crews that use the canals.
“We don’t know anything about these people or who they are fishing for. They are driving down the value of the property. They are doing commercial operations within a residential area,” he said.
Residents have also complained about fishing crews drinking and playing music on their boats late at night.
Mr. Suckoo added, “People are living on some of these boats with no toilets or running water.”
Director of Planning Haroon Pandohie said there were some gaps within the existing planning legislation that could potentially be filled to better regulate activity in the canals.
There are currently no guidelines to designate what is a residential canal and what restrictions, if any, should apply. He said it might be possible, through amended legislation, to zone certain canals as residential and limit the size and type of boats that use them and restrict them to recreational use only. He said the ministry was looking into the problem to see what could be done from a legislative perspective.