Retired seaman Crosby Walton longs for the days when a trip up West Bay Road meant a clear view of the coastline.
“I sure do, I remember it well,” he told Cayman 27.
At 83-years-old Mr. Walton has watched the number and height of buildings lining Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach strip increase; each helping to block his view of the sea. He’s hoping the trend does not continue.
“I think that will be the icing on the cake. That’s the last mistake that they would make, is to build those types of buildings in Cayman. We are an island, not a continent. We don’t need that kind of development,” said Mr. Walton.
His concerns are common on one side of the decades-long debate over development versus conservation.
While speaking at the annual Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum on Wednesday (19 June), Finance Minister Hon. Roy McTaggart reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to developing Cayman’s infrastructure. But he said it will be done in a sustainable way.
“Our government is committed to exercising prudent and responsible financial management, improving both the physical and institutional infrastructure,” said Minister McTaggart.
A Department of Environment map issued in 2013 shows 69% of Grand Cayman’s western wetland areas have been lost since 1969. Despite the vivid depiction of the loss of wetlands, Cayman’s pace of development shows no signs of slowing down. Recent talks of creating an iconic tower, which would soar above Cayman’s current building restrictions, have been met with opposition.
Chamber of Commerce President Chris Kirkconnell also spoke at the Chamber’s forum. He is against creating high-rise mixed-used developments. He said development must be sustainable while protecting Cayman’s natural resources.
Mr. Kirkconnell said, “We are already pushing our limits with our current building high restrictions, and Caymanians from all walks of life [think] that a 50, 80 or 100 story skyscraper planted directly in the heart of Seven Mile Beach, is not only not a sustainable way forward for our island, is not needed nor wanted by the larger community.”
Cayman 27 reached out to Dart Real Estate the developers behind the proposed tower.
Justin Howe, Executive Vice President of Development Planning and Asset Management at Dart said,”We welcomed the opportunity to join the conversation about sustainable economic growth and share our rationale for increased building heights at the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Forum. In areas like George Town and Seven Mile Beach, where land is scarce and in high demand. There are economic, societal, and environmental benefits associated with taller buildings, especially as luxury resort hotels drive high-value economic activity and job creation.”
‘Plan Cayman’ a comprehensive infrastructure and landmass review of all three islands is currently underway. The government said it seeks to review each major area and develop longterm goals for how it is to either be developed or preserved.