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Opponents vow to fight Emerald project

Burns Conolly

Emerald Sound opponents said yesterday they would appeal Thursday’s official approval for the multi-million-dollar housing development, and would try to persuade Cabinet to refuse the project.

Speaking after the Central Planning Authority (CPA) nod to the canal-side 81-house development in South Sound Road, Katrina Jurn, a member of the 200-member ProtectSouthSound group said the decision was “very disappointing, but not shocking”.

Lamenting the “narrow focus” of the decision, which opponents claim threatens the area with flooding and pollution, Ms Jurn said they would approach the Planning Appeals Tribunal in hopes of reversing yesterday’s approval.

“ProtectSouthSound is working on behalf of 1,100 objectors [to the plan]. We have high hopes that Cabinet will deny an application for a coastal works licence, and while the Central Planning Authority looks at extremely narrow criteria, the Cabinet is people we elect to represent our interests. They will look at the wider impact and at the environment,” she said.

A Wednesday-morning gathering of the 13-member panel heard arguments from representatives of the objectors and from Emerald Sound architect Burns Conolly and developer R.C. Estates Ltd chief Rene Hislop.

A press release yesterday from The Burns Conolly Group said R.C. Estates “understands from the Planning Department that the application before the CPA on August 3 has been approved”.

“The low-density development of approximately 81 single-family home lots and 160 apartments, presented a detailed submission to the CPA reviewing all of the objectors concerns and commented ion government reviews of the project as well,” the release said.

The controversial proposal is for a series of 6-foot-deep canals winding among a series of homes, an apartment block and marina, set on 90 landscaped acres raised eight feet above sea level and surrounded by drainage facilities and an access channel cut through South Sound Road to open water.

The road will be moved 80 feet inland, providing jogging and bicycling paths, while a bridge will cross the new channel.

Objections to the project, initially proposed at least five years ago, pinpoint flooding and storm-surge risks, inadequate flushing of the canals, insufficient drainage, and waters fouled by run-off, pollution and increased boat traffic.

A series of meetings by various opposition groups such as ILoveCayman and ProtectSouthSound have been countered by Mr Conolly’s own efforts to explain the project and mitigate public concerns.

After yesterday’s CPA approval, he told iNews that he would start detailed design work. Construction would start as soon as Planning officials panel gave the nod to R.C. Estates.

“We now go into the detailed design phase and meeting any CPA requirements,” he said. “We can begin construction immediately. We will have to await the Planning Department’s approval to begin.”

He declined to say how much the development would cost or how many jobs would be created, saying only that “significant infrastructural works of building a new road and bridge would cost “millions of dollars” and yield “over CI$45 million to government in direct fees and import duties over the next 10 years.”

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