Debate over the Smith Barcadere development has intensified, as advocates to protect the cove clash with government over plans for an oceanside parking lot and the scope of a covenant prohibiting commercial activity at the site.
Tristan Hydes, deputy chief officer at the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, told Radio Cayman Monday morning that the discussion had “spiralled out of control” and that drawings of site plans had been misinterpreted by the public.
“We’re just here this morning to set the record straight, so that we can really get people to realise that we are not here to do damage or be insensitive to our culture or environment, but to really do something for the people of Cayman,” Hydes said.
At the heart of the debate is an oceanside parking lot, which government has said is necessary to improve safety and prevent illegal parking along the road.
Charlotte Evelyn Eden Webster, 15, spoke out against the proposed lot on behalf of the Webster family, the former owners of the site.
“My great Uncle William Burnett Webster donated ‘Smith’s Barcadere’ in 1978 for a peppercorn from the governor. All agreed and put in strict covenants to preserve the natural beauty and its pristine state,” Eden Webster told the Cayman Compass.
“Whilst I appreciate these protective covenants have now been extended to all three parcels for protection, I am shocked and dismayed that the government wants to pave the oceanside lot they acquired and put in a parking lot. There is no need to cut any trees, pave any land or change this national treasure,” she said.
Premier Alden McLaughlin contested comments that the parking lot would violate the site covenant, clarifying that the land in question was purchased by government in 2016 and was not included in the original agreement with the Webster family.
“It’s not on the original Smith Barcadere property,” McLaughlin said. “It’s at the roadside but of the land government acquired in 2016. It does not affect the beach.”
The premier also took to social media to defend the plan, posting to Facebook, “The enhancements to Smith Barcadere will focus on enjoyment for all Caymanians, increased accessibility for disabled and older persons, reduced congestions and improved safety.”
A.L. Thompson, the closest neighbour to the site, also defended the plan on Radio Cayman.
“I think we need to dispense of all of this nonsense about destroying the cove, Smith Barcadere. That’s absolute, utter nonsense. No one loves the cove more than me. I grew up across from there. I would not stand by and watch the cove be destroyed,” Thompson said.
“You can’t tell me that when you drive down South Church Street as it is – you see cars parked on either side of the road, the parking lot is full, there’s cars parked on the double yellow line – that those cars don’t need some place to go. People can sit around and criticise all they want … but they’re not suggesting what we can do with the cars. If they come up with a better plan, fine, but I don’t see any better plan than this.”
A protest organised by ‘People for the Protection of Smith Barcadere’ is planned for Saturday at noon at the cove.
Michelle Lockwood, an advocate for the cove, described the site as a relic of the island’s past that needed to be maintained as is.
“I do not want any enhancements to Smith Barcadere. We were promised a public meeting after the last one and we were not consulted. We keep hearing this is for the enjoyment of all Caymanians but most are speaking out against it. The project seems quite excessive and nothing has properly been disseminated to the public or gone out for consultation,” Lockwood said.
“The Webster family kindly donated the land for the enjoyment of the people of the Cayman Islands and the people of the Cayman Islands have not been consulted on this project in any way.”