The Little Cayman District Committee of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands has launched a petition objecting to the proposed construction of a resort with over-water bungalows on the island.
The committee said this is a matter of “critical importance” because the plan would involve constructing the bungalows in a protected Marine Park Zone, and is calling on Cabinet to reject a coastal works permit application from the developer, Peppercorn Investments Ltd.
Peppercorn Investments, owned by Bill Maines, Matthew Wight and Naul Bodden, has applied for planning permission and a coastal works permit for the construction of the resort, at the site of the current Kingston Bight Beach Bar at South Hole Sound.
The proposed resort includes 19 one-bedroom bungalows built along a 542-feet dock that would extend out over the water, as well as six two-storey three-bedroom cottages and 12 single-storey two-bedroom cottages on the beach.
In a press release, the committee said it was “deeply concerned about the precedent this would set and damage this would cause in the Marine Park Zone”.
Gregory S. McTaggart, chairman of the Little Cayman District Committee of the National Trust, said in the release, “We call on our Government to act in the best interest of our country and all its citizens and residents and preserve the integrity of the South Hole Sound Marine Reserve and deny the overwater component of the Planning application and the Coastal Works Permit application for construction in the waters of South Hole Sound.”
The petition, the committee said, would provide a means for people to comment on the coastal works permit application. Their objections and submissions would be included in the application, that ultimately will be decided upon by Cabinet.
Marine Protected Area ‘must be preserved’
The National Trust said it finds it “profoundly troubling that serious consideration should be given to construction in a Marine Park, particularly by a for-profit, private commercial concern”.
In its statement, it added, “The National Trust believes that it should be self-evident that a National Park must be off limits to construction under all circumstances and portions of it must not be given away for private use. The location for the proposed construction is a Marine Protected Area which should not be disturbed but instead preserved for the people of the Cayman Islands and the marine species for which these areas were legally created over three decades ago.”
Wight, speaking to the Cayman Compass about the development last month, said the construction of the overwater bungalows would be similar to the construction of a dock, with the placement of piles and concrete pillars in the seabed below. The bungalows will be built eight feet above sea level.
The National Trust argues that the overwater construction would cause material damage to an otherwise untouched seabed.
“Several causes for concern arise such as, it is expected that the drilling necessary to place the support posts for the dock will cause sedimentation and turbidity that could severely impact the nearby coral reef,” it said. “These posts would potentially change water flow and ultimately the surrounding shoreline.”
It added that changes in light and shadow to the nearshore ecosystem “could disrupt the delicate balance of that habitat”.
“There is no way to mitigate this damage. The ongoing operation of a commercial business in the South Hole Sound Marine Reserve will degrade the Reserve constantly. And the debris pollution that will result from the inevitable, future catastrophic storm event will spread far and wide throughout the Reserve.”
The Development Control Board, which considers planning applications for the Sister Islands, will discuss Peppercorn’s coastal works application at its meeting on Tuesday, 10 Aug., after the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency requested the board’s comments on the coastal works permit.
Wight, in response to the National Trust petition, told the Compass today, “As Caymanian developers, the marine life and surrounding environment is of utmost importance to us and this proposed project. To think that it would be beneficial to our project if there was a deterioration in marine life or environment in general as a result of same is simply false.”
He said the Peppercorn Investments’ owners believed that “following discussions with relevant expertise” that the marine life would not be adversely affected following the completion of the project, “and in fact, as is the case around many docks in Little Cayman, there would be an abundance of marine life. The plans have been designed in a way in which to see to this.”
He said the owners had worked on the development plan for the past three years, stating that the area in question is a “brownfield site which has deteriorated substantially and is in need of redevelopment”.
“The project as proposed would see no disturbance to the natural coast line, reefs or any mangroves,” Wight said in a written response. “The site is in the lee of the typical storm directions and is reef protected. We conducted an extensive technical analysis on the project following our initial meetings with [the Department of Environment] last year. Our technical report was submitted earlier this year as a ‘self screening’ application to DoE prior to any formal submission to the DCB or application for Coastal Works License.”
He added that Peppercorn would “be happy to work with the National Trust or any other relevant body on this project to ensure the environment would not be negatively affected”.
“To be clear,” he said, “we are not asking for any rights to the Queen’s bottom for free. Our proposal is that, contrary to a typical one-time fee for a coastal works license, that this application instead contributed on an annual annuity license basis. The royalties of such could directly benefit the Environment/National Trust of LCB or similar instead of general Government coffers.”
He said the resort and spa project was a “long-term sustainable” one which aims to promote eco and wellness tourism.
“In addition, he said, “there are numerous education opportunities that can arise following the success of this project. The benefits to Little Cayman and as a result Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman are substantial; we should be collectively working together to maximize that goal.”
Comments on the coastal works application can also be submitted directly to Cabinet by emailing the Chief Officer of the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency at [email protected]. The deadline to do this is 13 Aug. 2021.