Grand Cayman is changing, and one couple who have enjoyed the island’s sand, sun, and sea for 40 years of tropical holidays says it might be time to pump the brakes on development.
They told Cayman 27 they’re overwhelmed by the accelerated pace of growth, especially in recent years.
Janet and Bud McDanel enjoyed a recent sunny afternoon in old West Bay with a stroll along the waterfront.
“We’ve been coming here almost 40 years. Some years a while back we came twice a year, but more recently life has intervened and we haven’t gotten here,” said Ms. McDanel.
They told Cayman 27 in the years since their last visit, the island has seen major changes.
“It’s been about five or six years, so the big new roundabout was not here then, and there wasn’t as much traffic, so I’m not renting a car this time,” said Ms. McDanel.
Ms. McDanel said the public bus system has been a pleasant surprise.
“I wish we had that where we live, I like the little buses and the fact that they will stop and pick you up and let you off, there’s no designated bus stop. That’s been great,” she said.
But they said the low-key charm that first attracted them to our island paradise is under threat to what they termed an “overwhelming” increase in development.
“I remember when we first came here we were so charmed by the island, and they assured us that there would never be any buildings, because it was law, over four stories tall,” she said. “There were great expenses along the beach that hadn’t been developed.”
Not all of it has been bad, she said. For instance, gone are the days of bringing in lettuce and other fresh veggies in a suitcase.
“The supermarkets now are world class, you can find anything and everything in your supermarkets,” said Ms. McDanel.
But on the whole, the McDanels said Cayman is at risk of paving over its island charm.
“There are some pluses to the growth, but I would really hope that you can halt it now,” she said.
The statistics seem to back up the McDanel’s anecdotal evidence of accelerated development on the island.
So far in 2017, the Planning Department has given the green light to more than 1,000 proposals worth an estimated $688 million. Compare that with the year before and you see the considerable jump from 804 approvals worth an estimated $406 million.
When we look back at the last decade, 2017 stands head and shoulders above every other year, beating the 10-year approvals average of of roughly $379.6 million by a whopping 81%.
Groups like Save Cayman have been very vocal about the need to update the country’s development plan, something Planning Minister Joey Hew acknowledged last week in his budget speech.
“Clearly the review of the 20 year old development plan is long overdue, and I’ve given it priority. The islands wide review will be completed in the next 15 months,” said Mr. Hew.
Mr. Hew said that review will include a full public consultation.