Libanon Corporation developers, who are looking to build a $20 million four-star luxury hotel along Seven Mile Beach returned to the Central Planning Authority Wednesday with revised plans.
In March, when the developers first sought planning approval, they were met with an overwhelming amount of opposition from more than 200 residents and homeowners in the area. The initial application called for permission to create a 10-storey, 129-bedroom boutique hotel on the north side of the Seven Mile Beach corridor, along West Bay Road.
On Wednesday, developers presented a new application which called for the approval of a seven-storey, 129-bedroom business hotel. The revised hotel plans revealed the new hotel would be roughly 140,000 square feet. It would stand 97 feet high, some 33 feet below the maximum zoning height. It would cover 25% of the 1.9 acre lot, out of the allowed 40%. The development would include solar panels, turtle friendly lighting, breezeways and a host of other environmentally friendly designs; as well as a several other amenities such as a restaurant/bar, two pools, a gym and a generator.
Speaking on behalf of Libanon Corporation, Eamon Wilson of business advisory firm BlueCap, said, not only were the new plans “well within the requirements of all the various government agencies”, the development also met a need that was not currently met or offered by any existing hotel – that being the need for a business hotel. Wilson said the year-on-year increase in stayover tourism had spurred an increase in the number of luxury hotels and condominiums, but not business hotels.
A letter from the Department of Tourism attached to Libanon’s latest application endorsed the creation of the hotel. It said, “The addition of a business hotel is a welcomed concept to join the world-class tourism and hospitality sector that currently exists across all three of the Cayman Islands.”
But despite the numerous changes to the design and theme of the hotel, the application was once again met with overwhelming opposition. The number of objectors who wanted to be present for the meeting was such that the venue of the meeting had to be changed from the Government Administration Building’s ground floor boardroom to the Family Life Centre, where more than 70 people attended.
Leading the charge against the development was attorney Nicholas Dixey who represented the Commonwealth Development, a set of condominiums located in the area.
Dixey urged the CPA to reject the application on the grounds of the 1997 Planning Law, consistency, the need for the hotel and the development plans. He called the application nothing more than an attempt by the developers to “sell repackaged snake oil”.
“It is still the same application, simply a change in aesthetics,” said Dixey.
He added, “While the height of the new hotel might have been reduced from 10 storeys to seven, its width has increased, and therefore by the 1997 Planning Law, the volume has remained the same.” He said the board members should not approve the latest application, since only a few months ago, they found the volume to be a major contributing factor to denying that application.
He conceded that the area was zoned hotel/tourism, and said the objectors were not against a hotel being built in the area, rather they are objecting to the size and potential disruption it could cause to the area’s current tranquillity.