Contrary to some allegations, developer Rene Hislop said he’s been very careful not to destroy any mangroves during a controversial land reclamation and seawall project in South Sound.
“When people say we are dumping on top of mangroves, that is not the truth,” he said.
Mr. Hislop, who said he was served with an injunction Friday that halts work on the project until Tuesday, spoke to the Caymanian Compass at length about his R.C. Estates project and took a reporter to visit the site. In support of his claims, there is no visible evidence that any mangroves have been harmed by the land reclamation that has taken place all week.
The injunction was filed on behalf of a private objector, not by the Attorney General.
The new extended shoreline stops short of mangroves in the water, including curving back inward to make space for a small patch of more mature trees. Mr. Hislop said some young potted mangroves were simply picked up and moved outside the bounds of the project.
Mr. Hislop said he purchased some 300 [*} young potted mangroves after Hurricane Ivan for CI$75,000. The mangroves were made available in Cayman as part of a US$228,000 project supported by the Reef Ball Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Cayman Islands Yacht Club, local donors and the Cayman Islands government.
Mr. Hislop said in consideration of the South Sound marine environment, he elected to use pre-sifted fill consisting entirely of larger rocks to minimize the amount of silt that could escape into the Sound. Additionally, he is using a silt screen, even though that was not a requirement stipulated by the Central Planning Authority when it approved the project in mid-August.
Katrina Jurn of Protect South Sound filed a notice of appeal 11 September to bring the matter before the Planning Appeals Tribunal. Ms Jurn has also appealed Mr. Hislop’s Emerald Sound subdivision, which is located across South Sound Road. While developers generally choose to hold off on their projects while appeals are pending, there is no legal mandate for them to do so.
Mr. Hislop said he’s not waiting for the Planning Appeals Tribunal because he believes he has a minimal risk of potential liability.
He said, “I’ve taken legal advice. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m doing everything by the law. I’m not saying ‘sorry’. I said ‘please’ and I got approval.”
Objectors want the project to be halted until the resolution of a legal question about whether a property’s seaward boundary recedes with physical erosion, or whether, once the boundary is ‘fixed’ according to a survey, the owner retains control over the land even if it becomes submerged.
In August, the authority accepted an argument by Mr. Hislop’s attorney J. Samuel Jackson, who said, “There are two types of boundaries, general and fixed. A fixed boundary is for perpetuity in the Land Law. It is clear, if the seaward boundary has a fixed boundary, then it is fixed,” according to the minutes of the meeting.
Mr. Hislop said his development is not setting a precedent. He said the most recent precedent is when the authority approved a project by Gencorp Equitable Natwest Corp. Ltd. to clear and fill a vacant lot, up the high water mark, on Shamrock Road next to the Vista Caribe apartment complex in the Red Bay area.
In that case, planning officials discovered the work was being done in late July 2011. The developer then applied for permission in early August 2011. The authority did not hear the application until March 2012. Although the work was finished, Gencorp paid the usual CI$500 planning application fee, and produced an e-mail excerpt from Assistant Director of Planning Ron Sanderson stating the department would not charge the applicant an after-the-fact application fee that would have been CI$5,000.
Regardless of what the authority decided to approve, former Lands and Survey Department chief surveyor Alistair Ayres said the notion that a coastal boundary in Cayman can be ‘fixed’ regardless of erosion or accretion is “completely incorrect”.
Mr. Ayres said it is universally accepted among surveying professionals that coastal boundaries are ambulatory and travel with weather and nature. Samson and McGrath attorney James Kennedy told the Compass he agrees with Mr. Ayres.
[*] Editor's note: Changed to reflect the fact that 300 mangroves, not 30, were purchased by Mr. Hislop.