A towering construction crane casts its shadow across the soft white sand of Seven Mile Beach as the clear blue water stretches out towards the horizon.

It’s an image that encapsulates some of the conflict surrounding the future of Cayman’s greatest natural asset and number one tourist attraction.

The right balance between economic growth and the preservation of the beach as an ecosystem and recreational attraction for all is a fundamental issue for the country, for the candidates running for election and for the officials attempting to craft the first update to Cayman’s Development Plan in a generation.

From concerns over beach erosion and blocked access paths to questions around multi-story buildings and over-tourism, there are complex long-term challenges to face.

With consultations over ‘Plan Cayman’ on hold in the run-up to the election, the Compass conducted our own consultation exercise to get perspectives from the people who will have the greatest say in how those issues are resolved.

We reached out to the businesses, politicians and environmental advocates to tell seven stories about the possible futures for Seven Mile Beach.

Rival visions of Seven Mile Beach

  • Dart Enterprises, the largest landowner in the area, outlined plans for new developments, making the case for taller buildings in certain areas. CEO Mark VanDevelde told us that the company is committed to Cayman as its global headquarters and believes it can help strike the right balance between “economic, social and environmental interests”.
  • The Department of Environment highlighted serious ongoing concerns around beach erosion and warned the lack of a development plan threatens the long term future of the island’s greatest natural asset. Deputy director Tim Austin cautions that Seven Mile is a ‘finite resource’ and argues for a carrying capacity assessment.
  • Real Estate businesses highlighted the importance of luxury property investors to the economy. Property Cayman’s Michael Joseph encourages us to view them as “high-spending, long-stay tourists”. He suggests demolishing and rebuilding older properties, as is happening at Lacovia, could be the blueprint for future development in the area.
  • The owners of one of Seven Mile Beach’s oldest properties, an 80-year-old timber-framed cottage on Boggy Sand Road, gave us a glimpse into the area’s past. Shirley Roulstone recalled her childhood days at the home when there was little or no development and ‘only a few lights visible between George Town and West Bay’
  • Community campaign group Amplify Cayman shared strong views about how Seven Mile is facing what it describes as a “perfect storm of ecological, cultural and economic devastation”. Spokesperson Eden Hurlston called for a fresh approach to ensure “the people of Cayman” are prioritised over “the profit motive” of developers.
  • Candidates seeking election have different views on the right balance between economic development and environmental protection. We sought the views of current planning minister Joey Hew and a variety of rival candidates on how they would sustainably manage the future of Seven Mile.
  • The current forum that will dictate future zoning and building policy on the beach is the Plan Cayman project. We checked in with the Department of Planning to get a brief update on the status of that exercise.

What do you think the priorities should be for Cayman’s next Development Plan and for the Seven Mile Beach corridor in particular?

Send your thoughts to [email protected].

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Joseph’s “blueprint ” for future development is self serving. The attraction of West Bay Beach has always been its tranquil setting. We do not need a procession of high rise apartment buildings from one end of the beach to the other with the resulting crowded beach looking like Miami at Spring break. The only benefit from this will be the pockets of our realtors.

  2. It took Cayman 501 years until the quincentennial plus 1 year until the Dart Group poured the longest and largest uninterrupted concrete pour in the history of the Cayman Islands (for the foundations of the Cinema Complex) to have enough economic kindling here to start the economic fire we have seen since then. Why so long? Storms, mosquitoes, and many competing places better than we are. Before 2004 and as late as the aftermath of hurricane IVAN, successful bankers and financiers in NY and London (the owners of the bank and types of people who attend Bilderberg) were warning me that Cayman was “finished” as a Center and we would wind up an irrelevant tourist place and dive spot with increasing crime and fleeing wealth. Since 2004 we have had no major storm events or natural disasters. We’ve imported and created a generation of people with no clue how small, inelastic and inflexible our economy was before the development wave of the last 20 years. A pollyannaish generation born since and know it all imports have completely disconnected the environment from the growth that puts a Starbucks latte within reach. The biggest risk Cayman faces today is a wave of imported idealistic tree-huggers values freezing development and taking us back to the doldrums of economic flight, insecurity and inactivity. Money is mobile. In Grand Cayman we must embrace growth (lots of it) — in a sustained manner that makes it look Beautiful and desirable.. There is simply no alternative on an island nation where our very existence is threatened by those jealous of our thriving ecosystem and would like to take our lunch. We under constant threat from the weather, competing jurisdictions and now, lately.. by dreamers who would flee as quickly as they came at the first sight of disaster after giving us all their “good environmental advice”. Our place in this World has been protected by God and the good men and women he has brought us, who understand the words I’ve written; and who guide and protect us against naked foolish idealism that could take our Country back to a time none of us want to revisit.

  3. I don’t live in Cayman (regrettably), I’m just an outsider, wistfully daydreaming of actually being a resident. So, take my thoughts for what they are…but then, sometimes, maybe, an outside viewpoint could be of interest or help?

    I dearly and passionately want to move to Grand Cayman. And the reason is simple: It’s beautiful. All of it…the natural beauty there, the culture and the people, the history, all of it entices and entrances.

    I do firmly believe that some development is likely necessary, in order to stay competitive with other tourist/resort destinations, but that should never come at the cost of the very factors that entice tourism in the first place. I live right now in Lake Tahoe, another world-famous resort area, and in the city of South Lake Tahoe, there are a LOT of places for people to visit, and to stay, but years ago the city put in place a limit on the height of buildings, so that the people would have unobstructed views of the lake, mountains and other scenery, the very things that bring people here.

    From my outsider’s viewpoint, this is the sort of thinking that Cayman needs; draw people in, develop and keep pace with the competition, but do not, in any way, ruin or jeopardize the very thing that makes people want to come. You do not need Seven Mile Beach to look like any of the many, many other grossly over-developed beaches around the world.

    Cayman has an inherent, natural beauty to it that draws people there; fight to preserve it, please.