Traffic congestion and high-density tourism development were among the key concerns highlighted during the consultation period for Cayman’s new development plan.
The planning department received 356 separate submissions incorporating more than 2,000 comments on its Plan Cayman document – which sets out a vision for the future development of Cayman.
Building heights, space for recreation facilities and concern for the environment were prominent among the public comments, according to Richard Mileham of the planning department’s policy and development unit.
“In general, people agreed with the approach we are taking,” Mileham told members of the Central Planning Authority at Wednesday’s meeting,
Summarising some of the findings of the three-month consultation exercise, Mileham said 72% of those that had responded to the document agreed with the overall vision.
He said there had been broad support (83%) for small scale tourism development in certain districts, but less enthusiasm (53%) for high-density tourism outside the Seven Mile Beach corridor. Nearly everyone surveyed (92%) believed protection of natural resources should be a priority, while more than half supported cycle lanes on all roads.
Mileham said the document, which sets out broad goals for the Development Plan, would now be finalised, taking into account feedback from the public and various government departments, non-profits and business groups.
Specific policies will be drawn up in separate ‘area plans’, starting with Seven Mile Beach later this year.
Mileham said islandwide consultation would take place, and a plan, including a zoning map, would be drawn up for that area. Once that is complete, the department will move on to the next area, producing an islandwide plan piece by piece.
He acknowledged that concerns had arisen during the process about Dart’s plan for an ‘iconic’ multi-storey tower.
He said he expects there to be a more general discussion about building heights for both Seven Mile Beach and George Town once the department begins its area-specific plans.
“The next step is the Seven Mile Beach area plan later this year,” he said, “where we will get into more detail on those areas of contention, including building heights and public spaces.”
He said the feedback so far showed support for taller buildings in George Town but less enthusiasm to go higher on Seven Mile Beach.
“It is something we need to discuss in more detail. I think it is going to be a lively debate,” he added.
One key concern that cropped up in multiple responses was traffic congestion. Mileham said many respondents felt developers should be required to contribute to improvements in infrastructure, such as roads and utilities.
Central Planning Authority chair A.L. Thompson said developers already contribute infrastructure fees, but suggested that these funds be earmarked for capital projects rather than going into general revenues.
“The infrastructure fund needs to be looked at more transparently so people can see where it is going,” he said.
Thompson also suggested a more streamlined process for changing zoning to allow the Central Planning Authority or government to respond to demand. He said there is currently high demand for light industrial zones, but not enough space to accommodate them.
Thompson also highlighted the need for coastal works applications to be brought under the normal planning process.
He said the planning authority could review marine plans and make recommendations to Cabinet.
Board member Selvin Richardson said population predictions should be factored into the plan to help determine infrastructure requirements in each area.
Mileham said the planners’ preferred approach was to look at alternate scenarios where certain growth trigger points might necessitate new infrastructure.