A controversial proposal for Cayman Kai drew North Side residents and homeowners to a Central Planning Authority meeting Tuesday.
Grand Cayman’s planning board was tasked with considering a planned area development application by Criton Development Ltd. that would set the stage for a 50-acre mixed-use project off Rum Point Road, including a hotel, homes, retail and marina.
If approved, the Kai Village would be the Cayman Islands’ fourth PAD and the first not related to Dr. Devi Shetty’s Health City Cayman Islands in East End.
Planning officials received scores of letters against the proposal, with objectors citing concerns with the scale of the development, environmental impact and effect on the character of the neighborhood, as well as issues related to the planning process and Bill of Rights.
“We believe that the existence of this 50-acre development will, by its scale alone, create a nuisance and an annoyance to our owners and guests and destroy the peace, tranquility and quality of life in our neighborhood,” wrote the executive committee of the strata for The Sea Lodges of Cayman Kai, which is adjacent to the proposed hotel.
Robert Hill, chairman of the Cayman Kai Property Owners Association, counted 94 objections to the application, with about 14 people showing up to appear before the authority in person.
They included Vernon and Grace Andrews, who built the first house in Cayman Kai in 1967. They flew in from Michigan specifically for the meeting.
Officials also received letters from about 10 supporters of the project, who said the development would bring in needed amenities to the area.
Rum Point condo owner and former Cayman Islands lawmaker Norman Bodden wrote in support, “it is my considered opinion that this project would provide much needed development specifically for the Cayman Kai area and for the country as a whole. I realize, of course, that there are opposing views, but progress cannot be made if an area is allowed to become stagnant.”
According to the planning application, construction on the mixed-use development could take place during the next five to seven years. The result would be “a community at a similar density to the Countryside Village commercial center at Hirst Road and Shamrock Road, in a relatively low density area of Grand Cayman with low-level infrastructure and few commercial uses,” according to the Department of Planning analysis.
Essentially, a PAD application is a request for a zoning overlay to permit land uses that may not be otherwise allowed in that zone – in this instance, the Kai Village PAD would sit on top of the base zoning for the area, which is mostly low-density residential and also hotel/tourism. Even if the PAD application is approved, the developer must then obtain planning permission to build the actual structures.
According to the planning department, the Kai Village PAD comprises eight acres of hotel/resort, 19 acres of commercial (retail and offices), 10 acres of multi-residential dwellings and the marina, 10 acres of low- to high-density residential, two acres of public open space and one acre of utilities.
The character of the residential area compares to Grand Cayman’s low- and medium-density residential zoning. The commercial area compares to Grand Cayman’s general commercial zoning.
The planning department identified issues with the proposed height of buildings, particularly the five-storey hotel and four-story condos: “the Authority has no legal discretion to vary the building height.”
Low-density residential zoning allows maximum building heights of three floors. Part of the proposed hotel area is zoned low-density residential. The other part of the hotel area is zoned hotel/tourism, allowing maximum heights of five stories.
According to the planning department, “The Cayman Kai community does not have any structures greater than 3 stories. There have been proposals for four- and five-story developments; however, the Central Planning Authority required the proposals to be revised to lower heights to ‘preserve the character of the Cayman Kai village’.”
The Department of Environment noted that to the south of the development is Little Sound, which is a designated Environmental Zone, the highest level of protection under the Marine Parks system. “Dredging of channels is ... incompatible with the management objectives of the Marine Park System,” according to the department.
The environmental department cautioned against permitting the removal of mangroves, referring to Criton’s adjoining Cays at Rum Point subdivision that remains undeveloped.
The environmental department pointed out that the proposed hotel site is an active nesting site for turtles and urged the developer to review its turtle nesting light guidelines when designing the hotel.
Developers said Kai Village, as detailed in the PAD application, could be built without the need for a costal works license, because the proposed marina falls within the existing canal structure.
The environmental department said that while the PAD application itself does not call for dredging, “The application drawings show a large area to the south of the PAD boundary as being subdivided with a further canal being dredged.”
Developers said those drawings of the area to the south do not apply to the PAD application and should not be taken into consideration at this stage.
The environmental department said if future canal dredging is required to make the project viable, then those plans should form part of the PAD application. It also suggested that any necessary coastal works license should be acquired before the planning authority approves the inland development, in accordance with the planning authority’s usual procedure.
In August 2011, the planning authority approved the contentious Emerald Sound development in South Sound before Cabinet had made a determination on the project’s coastal works license. Cabinet never approved the coastal works license and developers have been moving ahead with an alternative plan for the property.