September 21, 2020

Hundreds oppose West Bay Road plans

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In an effort that will continue for another two weeks, community activists have already collected hundreds of signatures on a petition to Governor Duncan Taylor, seeking to stop the closure of West Bay Road.

A coalition of West Bay residents’ groups are gathering endorsements on the two-page document, asking Mr Taylor “to preserve the West Bay Road in its entirety in perpetuity as a public vehicular roadway for the people of the Cayman Islands.”

“We have already sent a letter to the governor, outlining our concerns and telling him that this petition is coming,” said Alice Mae Coe, leader of Concerned Citizens, an informal, but tight-knit group of district residents.

“A cover letter will go with the petition, setting out the details of our reasoning because of the road and access to George Town,” she said.

Sentiment has quietly coalesced in the district, opposing plans by the ForCayman Investment Alliance to close a 2,500-foot section of the road – between Trafalgar Place and Yacht Club Drive – and re-route it onto the Esterley Tibbetts Highway, as a precursor to redevelopment of the now-abandoned Marriott Courtyard Hotel.

The alliance, an as-yet-unincorporated partnership between Dart Realty and elected United Democratic Party officials, plans a wide-ranging series of infrastructure, community and housing developments, including refurbishment of the Marriott and creation of at least one, and possibly two, more hotels. The scheme calls for investment of roughly $1.2 billion during the next 30 years, $200 million of which is scheduled for the next 12 months.

“People are out there getting pages and pages of signatures,” Ms Coe told iNews, “It is ongoing. We are coming on strong and we will aggressively continue the drive. We have put people in charge of different areas. We will get into every nook and cranny of Grand Cayman. I already have had two calls from George Town asking to sign the petition, and we haven’t even gone down there yet,” she said.

No date has been set to close the road, but an uneasy coalition has started to crystallise among Ms Coe’s Concerned Citizens Group, community leader and one-time independent candidate Ormond Morgan’s West Bay Action Committee and Captain Brian Ebanks Save Cayman.

Each have separate priorities, but preservation of the West Bay Road along Public Beach is emerging as a common cause.

“This is 2,500 feet of road and Dart is going to build on his own land anyway,” Ms Coe said, alluding to Dart’s ownership of all the land between the Marriott and the Cayman Islands Yacht Club.  “I don’t blame [owner Ken] Dart, he’s a businessman, but this will add thousands of feet of land and it will all become seafront property.”

Opponents – and the Concerned Citizen’s petition — also cite damage to more than “100 diversified small businesses”, elimination of the last ocean view from the road, restricted access to both Public Beach and the waterfront immediately to the north, potential traffic snarls on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway after accidents or natural disasters, and further commercial development in the area.

Rejecting the concerns, both Mr Bush and Dart have promised full public access to the water, including development of a second, larger public beach, and vastly expanded recreational facilities.

At a 30 August public meeting, Mr Bush went so far as to reject Ms Coe’s efforts: “That little section of the road floods anyhow,” he said. “You are not going to stop it because it is the right thing for West Bay.”

“That is vintage Mac,” Ms Coe said. “These people are our elected representatives and they should not disrespect the people who put them where they are and not ignore what we are saying. We, the electorate, are their bosses.”

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