The Central Planning Authority has refused planning permission for a four-storey, 30-apartment development on North West Point Road in West Bay.
In a decision announced today, following a hearing yesterday, the CPA turned down the application from developer Declan O’Brien’s NWPR Group. The company had proposed building the $12.3 million project on the water-side of North West Point Road, opposite Coral Gables.
This was the second time the application had been looked at by the CPA. It had deferred a decision on the application in January this year, after the Department of Environment had raised a number of concerns about the project. The DoE had pointed out that the site of the development was beside a protected marine area and that it was on a high wave energy coastline.
The site plan put forward by NWPR consists of the apartment building, a café, and two separate houses. At the earlier CPA meeting where the application was considered, the DoE also expressed concerns about the location of a fissure in the ironshore and its proximity to one of the houses.
At this week’s meeting, NWPR said it had conferred with geologist Brian Jones, of the University of Alberta, who has studied the geology of the Cayman Islands, on the issue. In a letter to the CPA, the company stated that the fissure extends under the north wall of the house on the northern side of the site, but that the house has since been moved further from the fissure.
The company also suggested that it could “fill the fissure with concrete… Frankly, just filling a section of the fissure under the house is not an unreasonable solution. Perhaps the DoE staff don’t appreciate the how insignificant the overlap is with the building footprint? We can design whatever is decided upon.”
Neighbours who had submitted objections to the plan argued that the apartment block was higher than noted in the plans, stating that a trellised rooftop that contains a swimming pool and other amenities should be included in the building-height specifications on the drawings.
NWPR Group acknowledged that the height levels in the plan did not include the rooftop area as the developer, having consulted with the Department of Planning, had understood that planning regulations were in the process of being changed so that rooftop services would be exempted from the calculation of building storeys and heights.
According to a letter delivered to the CPA by the developer, “The pending Planning Regulations have been through the consultation phase and are waiting to be read into law. The proposed services are practical in nature, (i.e. a bathroom for the users of the pool) and do not create an inhabitable space. We respectfully request that the CPA allow the rooftop services to remain in place. If the CPA does not agree to the variance request, we ask that the project be approved subject to the condition that the non-exempted rooftop services be removed.”
Objectors to the four-storey project said it is not in keeping with the types of buildings in the area.
However, NWPR said it should be allowed to build to its proposed height because nearby Dolphin Point already exceeds the maximum height of 55 feet outlined in the planning regulations.
The company agreed that the maximum height restriction is exceeded along certain portions of the building elevations due to the grading and slope of the site, but pointed out that there were several buildings on island that, like the NWPR development, had basement parking “where the height to roof slab at the entrance/exit to the basement is higher than the maximum allowed simply to gain access to the parking”. It gave the examples of the Caribbean Club, Fin, Meridien, Watercolours, Shore Club and Tides.
But, objectors said such comparisons were irrelevant because those buildings were on the tourism-zoned Seven Mile Beach, and not in a residential street in West Bay.
The development’s neighbours, a couple who have lived in their single-storey home next door to the proposed development for 40 years, appeared before the CPA to object to the impact on their privacy from the apartment block, and outlined some of their many other concerns over the project.