Plans to demolish and redevelop one of Cayman’s oldest condos, Lacovia, have been approved by the Central Planning Authority, despite objections from neighbouring properties.
Bronte Development applied to build the $180 million project, which includes 96 apartments housed within three 10-storey buildings, and 13 swimming pools.
Lacovia’s 55 owners voted in January last year to demolish their homes, built in 1981, and replace them with the new apartments. Bronte won a bid to redevelop the property after a competitive tender process.
Lacovia owners are each guaranteed an apartment in the new complex, which features a variety of multi-million-dollar homes and $20 million penthouse suites.
Among the four objectors to the development were the owners of neighbouring WaterColours, who said there was no application for planning permission to demolish the existing Lacovia building.
WaterColours was represented by Jackson Law, a development law firm, which submitted a lengthy objection letter claiming the application was in breach of the planning law.
“It is therefore submitted that it is the duty of the CPA to ensure that any permission granted for the demolition of any building is made subject to strict conditions as to how and when the demolition will be done,” Jackson Law stated in the objection letter.
The law firm said that WaterColours occupants also had concerns about the site coverage and over-development of Seven Mile Beach.
“It is again emphasised that this portion of Seven Mile Beach is reaching a critical maximum capacity with the existence of multiple hotels, condominiums and cruise ship passenger ‘drop-off-beaches’ in the immediate vicinity,” Jackson Law stated.
The applicant said in the CPA meeting, held on Wednesday, that Bronte does not require a variance because it had met with the Department of Planning for months to ensure its building is up to standard.
One of the other objectors asked, “Really, who needs 13 swimming pools? Especially when you have the most beautiful sea in the world right out front.”
Another objector said the development is out of proportion with the rest of the buildings on that stretch of Seven Mile Beach.
The Department of Environment, with the delegated authority from the National Conservation Council, said the site is adjacent to a marine protected area and located on a critical turtle-nesting beach. The DoE suggested that the developer use turtle-friendly lighting and that no construction work is done during turtle-nesting season, which runs from 1 May to 30 Nov.
Overall, the DoE concluded that the development does not require an environmental impact assessment despite concerns over climate change and the effects of construction on marine protected areas. It also strongly recommended an assessment of visual impact on the units of WaterColours.
The developer said in the application letter that it would comply with the DoE suggestions to install turtle-friendly lighting and not to perform construction during turtle-nesting season.
Samuel Jackson from Jackson Law said at the meeting that he is going to file an appeal.
A director of Bronte, Stefan Cohen, said that this development will provide a much-needed modern apartment inventory on Seven Mile Beach and that they are in huge demand.
“Lacovia are already over 65% sold out, with most of our sales at US$2,000 per square foot,” Cohen said.
He added that Bronte was working with counsel for the WaterColours objectors to try to reach an amicable resolution, as the majority of their concerns have to do with the construction process.
“Our application required no variances, was fully compliant with the law and regulations, and received positive feedback from all of the government agencies,” Cohen said.
He confirmed that demolition of the existing condos will commence on 1 Sept., with vertical construction starting in January 2021.