The Central Planning Authority has approved a major new housing development in Red Bay.
An initial application from developer Ergun Berksoy involved the subdivision of 53 acres of undeveloped land located behind the Prospect Playhouse and Red Bay Primary School, into five apartment lots, one neighbourhood commercial lot, 74 residential lots, three lots of land for public purpose, and 10 road lots.
Following objections from neighbours, Berksoy’s lawyer Waide Da Costa told the CPA at its meeting on 17 March that the plans had been amended to make the development more low-density, and three of the apartment lots would be used instead for about 20 house lots.
There had also been objections to the addition of a road adjacent to a freshwater pond – home to a number of protected bird species – and the extension of canals in the area. In response to those objections, in the revised plans, the canal expansion was removed and the position of the road was changed, Da Costa told the CPA members.
Da Costa said his client had decided to take the objections on board and compromise on his original plans, rather than spend “years and years” in litigation over the pond and canal issues.
Only three objections from neighbours were taken into account by the CPA at its meeting on Wednesday, as letters of objection from several other people had been received after the board’s submission deadline. Those letters were redacted in the CPA agenda.
Outdated road data
Lawyer Kate McClymont from Broadhurst LLC, representing objector Diane Quin, said the late revisions to the plans made by the developer were welcome, but added that the amendments would still mean a major increase to the amount of traffic – not just in the immediate area of the development, but on Shamrock Road and the already over-burdened Hurley’s roundabout.
She called on the board to delay approval of the application until updated information on the traffic in the area was available, pointing out that the data provided in the National Roads Authority’s response to the application was based on 2018 road-usage figures.
The NRA, in its submission on the application, estimated that the original development plan would mean an additional 7,847 traffic movements per day. In 2018, the average daily traffic count in that area was 40,935 vehicles, the NRA said.
McClymont said the traffic information submitted by the NRA was outdated, as since 2018, at least seven large developments in the area had been built or were in the process of being built – Indigo Bay, Aura, Paraiso, Grand Palmyra, Harbour Walk, Allure and Arvia – and therefore granting permission to the Berksoy development before the 2021 traffic figures were available was “premature”.
She said, “The inadequacy of Shamrock Road to deal with even current traffic levels is well documented. The place at which this massive amount of additional traffic is anticipated to enter and exit Shamrock Road is the thinnest part of the island and an area that every vehicle travelling from Prospect onwards out to the east districts is required to pass.”
Referring to a recent Whatsapp comment made by Premier Alden McLaughlin on a Red Bay community group chat, where he said, “As long as the applicant conforms with zoning and density, he or she is entitled to approval,” McClymont said she hoped the CPA did not take a similar approach when considering applications.
McClymont pointed out that the CPA had a legal obligation, under the Development and Planning Law, and Cayman’s Development Plan, to take environment issues and concerns from the local community about the development into account, even if objections from residents were received after the submission deadline.
Neighbour Elaine Whitefield, who was among the objectors at Wednesday’s meeting, said many local residents had not received notification of the planning applications from the Planning Department because they were not in the immediate area. She said 64 people had attended a meeting about the development last month and, for many, that was the first time they became aware of the magnitude of the development.
She told the CPA that those neighbours had suggested that only single-family homes be allowed in the development, and that a residential commercial area at the site could be reconsidered, as Grand Harbour was so close by
Another objector, Rachel Costa, pointed out that there are no mangroves left in areas in the neighbourhood where other developments had been erected and she was concerned about the impact the development would have on the local mangrove population. Among the people attending the meeting was a representative of the Mangrove Rangers, which advocates for the preservation of the trees.
Dinara Perera of the Mangrove Rangers, speaking to the Compass after the meeting, said her group was pleased to hear that the proposed canal extension has been removed from the development proposal.
“However, we are still extremely concerned about how the development will impact the remaining mangroves in this area, plus the potential problems this would create for flood management within the community of Red Bay. Therefore, we need to see a detailed, and (Department of Environment)-approved, mangrove-retention plan for this development following the initial changes to the proposed development.”
She added, “In addition, we are extremely concerned over the large number of development proposals involving mangrove destruction that have recently come before the CPA. There needs to be a moratorium put on all future major development until the new development plans are put in place following full public input.
See the full Central Planning Authority agenda, plans and objections.