Planning board to consider Seven Mile Beach hotel projects


As published in the Caymanian Compass  l  THURSDAY 27 DECEMBER 2012

The Central Planning Authority had a healthy amount on its plate 19 December during its final scheduled meeting of the year. The applications up for consideration by the board included several proposals by the Dart Group, as well as a Seven Mile Beach nourishment project.

Hotel, beach parking

Dart company Blossom Estates is requesting permission for a “construction compound” at the site of the former Courtyard by Marriott. The Cayman Islands Department of Planning recommends allowing the company to place a plant nursery and 10 temporary contractor trailers and construction offices to serve the proposed renovation of the hotel.

The project dovetails with two applications approved by the planning authority 7 November, one allowing Dart to relocate the construction trailers at Camana Bay in Grand Cayman, and one allowing Dart to clear and fill land to the east of the hotel being redeveloped.

According to the agenda of last week’s meeting, the planning department “has met with the developer and is confident an application will soon be submitted for the hotel renovation”.

The hotel is located at the southeast corner of West Bay Road and Raleigh Quay. Vacant land separates the hotel from Governors Way to the south.

The ForCayman Investment Alliance calls for the eventual closure of West Bay Road from Yacht Drive (north of Raleigh Quay) to Governors Way.

During last week’s meeting, the planning authority was set to discuss a proposal by Dart’s Shoreline Development Company to create a 100-stall parking lot on 11.5 acres of vacant land south of the hotel, across West Bay Road from Public Beach.

According to the planning department’s notes on the application, “As designed, the parking lot does not appear to serve any specific development. The agent states the lot will initially act as an overflow parking facility for Public Beach. The Department raised concerns that there does not appear to be any pedestrian connections to the beach, the agent responded connecting the parking lot to the sand beach area with a pedestrian walkway is not a part of this application’s proposed works due to the presence of West Bay Road.”

“As designed, visitors can walk approximately 800 feet to Calico Jack’s to access the beach or along the realigned Governors Way right-of-way, which appears to lead to Harbour Heights, just south of Public Beach.

“The Department understands there is a plan to close West Bay Road and open Governors Way for through traffic. However, this application may be better suited once the road closure becomes definite so a site plan that better incorporates visitor travel paths can be created.”

The parking lot project has an estimated cost of $1.015 million.

According to the planning department, “To date, a planning application fee has not been submitted. The applicant indicated that a fee waiver was forthcoming from the Minister of Finance, but it has not yet been received.”

The planning authority agenda also includes two relatively minor proposals from Dart company Cayman Shores Development, concerning Camana Bay.

One application is to create 1,330 square feet of outdoor seating for a restaurant on The Paseo. The other is to create a shade structure with solar panels over a sidewalk along Market Street.

Beach nourishment

On the south end of Seven Mile Beach, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is asking permission to supplement its shoreline with 1,000 cubic yards of sand.

The Marriott’s battles with beach erosion and accretion have been “well-documented” over the years, according to the Department of Environment’s notes on the application.

“The beach in this location will return – as has been the case historically – albeit over what temporal scale is difficult to predict due to the reliance upon storm events and the exacerbation of sand erosion created by the presence of the solid seawall (and recently constructed ramp) on the foreshore,” according to the department.

The environmental department notes that during a meeting the resort had said it is investigating a “long term strategy for beach stability in this location” and that the nourishment project would be “an interim measure only”.

According to the agenda, “The DoE had indicated during these discussions that, subject to ensuring that the grain size of the source sand and sand currently at the site were comparative and based on the proposed profile for the nourishment being acceptable, the DoE would not object to this.”

However, since that meeting, the environmental department had noticed “the beach has experienced substantial nourishment from the recent storm activity, as shown on the pictures below. The DoE is therefore reluctant to support artificial nourishment of the beach, which will result in environmentally damaging and unsightly turbidity both offshore at the Marriott and along this stretch of Seven Mile Beach, which is designated as a Marine Park. Additionally terrestrially derived sand sources, as proposed in this application (sand mined from Breakers), contain high levels of dust, fine particles and vegetation debris (soil) that will result in a temporary discolouration of the normally white Seven Mile Beach sand.

“Although this will ‘bleach’ and wash out with time the aesthetic impacts will be significant and should be avoided if at all possible, especially given the upcoming peak tourist season.”

Further, “The DoE appreciates that this is an ongoing concern for the property owner and is willing to explore opportunities to allow for the property owner to undertake artificial nourishment if required at a later date, in conjunction with the DoE and the Planning Department. One such solution may be to create the necessary permits/permission to allow for the stockpiling of sand which could be washed, dried and naturally bleached by sunlight in preparation for placement on the beach, should the need arise in the near future.

“Therefore given the recent recovery at this site and the likely adverse and unsightly environmental impacts resulting from the addition of terrestrially derived sand sources, the DoE strongly recommends against the artificial nourishment of this beach at this time.”

The planning department had several points of discussion on the proposal, including how the sand will be distributed, if silt screens will be used, and if there are pre- and post-profiles of the beach to “establish if 1,000 cubic yards is sufficient to actually prove beneficial”.