Beach Bay development, artist’s rendition / Cayman News

Cayman Islands: DoE raises concerns over Beach Bay hotel

CNS): A controversial $167 million resort project proposed for the quiet residential community of Beach Bay has not only raised significant concerns for the residents in the area but also the Department of Environment. The DoE has said that the National Conservation Council does not require the developers to conduct an EIA because local experts are already familiar with the site. However, the department has identified a number of problems with the planned development.

In its submission to the Central Planning Authority, which is set to hear the application Wednesday, the DoE said that if the CPA does grant planning permission it should not allow the developer to build on the beach, as currently proposed. The applicant wants to put beachfront villas, a pool deck, a guest services area, a pathway and a even a sewer directly on the beach, which will reduce the beach significantly.

“This has the effect of reducing the beach area by almost half in some areas,” the DoE stated.”The existing beach is approximately 170 feet wide at its widest point and with the proposed villas, sewer and pathway, there will be only approximately 90 feet remaining of beach. While we understand the desire to create an experience where villas open directly onto the beach, we do not support building directly on the beach.”

The DoE suggested that the villas could be built so they open onto the beach but are not directly built on it, and the pool and service areas could be moved north to offer the same experience without reducing beach size.

“The plans as proposed make a relatively small beach (for the size of development) even smaller, and this effect will worsen as the wider development comes forward. We believe the applicant should maximise their beach area by building back away from the beach. Beach Bay is also an active turtle nesting beach for Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), and there will be significant adverse impacts on turtles from building directly on the beach,” the experts warned, as they urged the CPA, if it grants permission, to require turtle-friendly lighting.

While the impact on the beach is causing the DoE a headache, the department is also concerned about the loss of some ten acres of primary habitat, including dry forest and shrubland, and dwarf vegetation and vines. As a result, the department is urging the developer to retain the native vegetation and incorporate it into the landscape wherever possible.

The DoE also noted the development’s carbon footprint and lack of consideration regarding climate change. While already causing the loss of primary habitat, which would have acted as carbon sinks, the proposed development gives no details regarding an on-site reverse osmosis plant and no renewable energy systems have been incorporated into the design.

The DoE is not the only agency raising concerns. The relatively new Public Land Commission, which is another agency invited to comment on planning applications, has said the plans for public access to the beach fall short of the legal requirement.

“The applicant’s proposal does not appear to fulfill the requirement of Regulation 32. The proposal allows for a single 12-foot public right of way at the east extremity of the site (cliff edge), although the length of shoreline subject to the planning application appears to be well in excess of 400-foot,” the commission stated, noting that the proposed public right of way does not connect to a public road.

The commission urged the CPA, before greenlighting the project, to ensure that the owner fully complies with the public access requirements, providing a minimum of one 6-foot public right of way to the sea per 200-foot of shoreline plus access to the beach at the eastern end, and that new public rights of way connect to a road.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) has also noted that government, which has backed this proposed project for years, will need to sign a new deal with the developers over the new roads that they are proposing to support the resort.

While government has been touting this development as a way of allowing the communities in the Eastern Districts a chance to enjoy a slice of the increasingly lucrative overnight tourism pie, the residents in the community are not keen.

Dozens of nearby residents have logged their objections with the CPA, with many complaining that they have been given very little information about the 9+ storey project that will include more than 100 rooms, 25 residences, two pools, restaurants, a spa and conference centre and tennis courts on 418,990 sq ft.

They are also very concerned about who the real benefactor will be, as well as the impact on their quality of life and beach access, given the plans for an on-site waste water treatment plant as well as the commercial and industrial type activities and noise associated with a resort of this magnitude.

The site has been proposed as a potential resort for decades and the current applicant, Beach Bay Land Ltd, was able to secure some $2 million in duty and fee concessions from the government as well as a new road layout. But residents have also questioned whether the current landowners will be the developers, as speculation has mounted that the owners are seeking planning permission to enable them to flip the land at a profit.

For more details see the CPA agenda for 11 September here

See Cayman News Service article . . .