Piles of scrap material and derelict cars are sullying the professional-looking light industrial park in George Town that business owners envisioned for their commercial area.
Some owners are complaining that businesses near the North Sound end of the Airport Industrial Park are not only stacking debris and wrecked vehicles on their own properties but also on neighbouring ones and surrounding streets.
New businesses, such as Otis Air, say they have followed the rules related to the planning authority and the vision for the development, constructing offices that have appealing facades and sidewalks. They worry that the debris they see piling up on streets such as Hidden Lagoon Drive and Blue Lagoon Drives, at the end of Sparkys Drive, detract from their efforts and hurt property values. Some have expressed concern that the largely unregulated debris may be harming the environment as well.
On a recent day, several junked cars sat on the roadside along Blue Lagoon Drive, one of which was on its side, its undercarriage exposed to the street. A dilapidated mobile home took up half a lane on the opposite side of the road. Two of its exterior walls were missing, exposing piles of insulation, carpeting and lumber on its floor.
Jeremy Bodden’s family owns Robson Construction, which has a lot on Hidden Lagoon Drive. He said the scrap and equipment from some businesses are overflowing onto the streets.
“There’s so much garbage in the road, it’s getting annoying,” Bodden said. “You have to [remove] it yourself.”
He said he feels it’s ruining the area.
“You’ve got a really nice Otis Air building and Clean Gas,” he said, referring to neighbouring businesses. “And one block away, you have all this junk.”
Slimlines Trenching owner Richard Corbin said the debris sometimes makes it difficult for him to get his heavy equipment in and out of his lot at the Hidden Lagoon and Blue Lagoon intersection.
“One of the reasons we have a corner property is for access,” Corbin said. “They end up blocking our gates. There’s been days when you can barely get a car in there.
“It’s a real convoluted mess,” he added. “I have a trade and business licence and keep my property clean and these guys do what they want. It’s gradually getting worse.”
He said he has complained to government agencies, including the Department of Commerce and Investment, the Department of Environmental Health, the National Roads Authority and the police.
“Nothing seems to happen,” he said. “On the surface, there’s a response to your complaint, but nothing further.”
Joey Hew, the minister of commerce, planning and infrastructure and whose George Town North electoral district includes this area, acknowledged there is a problem.
“It’s a broken-window syndrome,” Hew said, likening it to the theory that when eyesore homes emerge in an impoverished area they tend to encourage further degradation of the neighbourhood. “We should deal with these things early. We want to encourage it to be developed in a much nicer fashion before we get too long into it.”
Hew said he plans to set in motion the mechanisms for making that happen.
“We have a bit of a task force that deals with these things,” he said. “We can get them to clean it up.”
In addition to the debris littering the roads, a section of land between the Caymarl development and a canal to the north is owned by Dart. The land is eventually intended to be part of a new access road running from south of Camana Bay to Owen Roberts International Airport.
While there are ‘No trespassing’ signs posted at the end of the paved street, there are several places dotted with abandoned cars and other debris.
In a statement, Dart said it has made efforts to keep unauthorised people from coming onto the property and is “conducting regular site visits, in an effort to deter trespassers from dumping derelict vehicles on the property”.
It also said it is working to clean the existing debris up.
“We appreciate that illegal dumping of any kind poses a threat to environmental and public health,” the statement said. “We are working with the relevant authorities to have the derelict vehicles removed and disposed of in accordance with local legislation.”
A statement from the Department of Environmental Health said there is little that agency can do.
“There are no regulations that speak specifically to the disposal of oils/fluids emanating from motor vehicles,” the statement said. “The Cayman Islands Litter Law (1997 revision) however, defines oil/fluids as litter. ‘Litter means anything whatsoever, including dust, dirt, oddments, leavings, waste paper, cigarette ends, bottles (whether empty or not), derelict vehicles and any dead animal or carrion.’”
But agency officials have said the current litter laws are toothless and in need of revision.
Spokeswoman Stacey-Ann Anderson said she was aware of only one complaint from a local business owner. The department is in the process of responding to it but “resolving the situation requires a multi-departmental approach”, she said.
Hew said if the ground is being contaminated by oil or coolant, it would fall to the Water Authority to step in.
About two dozen vehicles have overflowed from the rear of Maximum Auto on Blue Lagoon onto Dart’s property.
Robert Robinson is the owner of Maximum Auto, which he calls a body shop and painting business. Junked cars fill most of his lot. The mobile home – since moved – and some of the junked cars on the street belong to him, he said, but not all.
“There’s a lot of things on the road that I don’t know about,” Robinson said.
He said the same thing about some of the cars in the back of his business.
“People bring vehicles there,” he said. “Dart came and told me I have to move them.”
Robinson said he feels he often gets blamed for debris that is not his responsibility.
“The other morning, somebody [left] a Ford van on the side of the road,” he said. “It reflects back to me like I’m the one doing it. I’m going to call the police and have them find the owner and get them to move it.”
He added other people are also dumping junk outside his property.
Richard Hurlstone owns the nearby Construction Equipment Services. Hurlstone said the frustration of local business owners is growing.
“The longer it goes on, the more people get annoyed, but nothing ever happens,” Hurlstone said.
He said he and many others just want what’s fair.
“Everyone who’s gone in here in the last two years has done it by the book,” he said. “I think everyone else should have to follow the same rules.”