In response to a rash of public backlash and outrage over a proposed condo development near Cayman’s beloved swimming area known as Smith Cove, the Cayman Islands government has agreed to purchasein principle the property to prevent any further development.
The parcel, on the northern end of Smith Cove, is being acquired to quell the outcry and to to prevent part of this popular beach spot from ever being developed in the future.
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin proudly announced that an agreement had been made with owners Bronte Development Ltd. to buy the land with a price to be determined later. Moreover, the Premier insisted that the purchase price would not exceed the costs that the developer has incurred in the purchase of the property and the costs that have been incurred in the planned development of the parcel.Additionally, he said that the government Lands and Survey Department would review the price point to ensure that it is in line with what the market value of the lands are.
The available property transfer records show that a company called "TFG Cayman Ltd." acquired thelands in question from a company controlled by Dart last year for USD $4.25 million. The Premier said the Cayman Islands Government would look to use monies from the Environmental Protection Fund to acquire the parcel. The fund money can only be accessed by an affirmative vote of the Legislative Assembly so that vote will need to go through before the completion of any sale.The Cayman Islands National Trust stated that it intended to nominate Smith Cove to its heritage register in recognition of its significance to Cayman’s history, populace and culture.
Shortly after announcing that government would be making efforts to purchase the Smith Cove lands, Premier McLaughlin also said his government expected a brand new public park next to the existing South Sound dock to be completed by the end of 2016. Additionally, detailed plans for a boardwalk type installation in the area were submitted to the Central Planning Authority and are awaiting approval. All of this is part and parcel to the government’s rollout of a beautification project for the area. These efforts involve shifting a section of the road between the Cayman Crossing subdivision and the South Sound dock area as well. There are also plans to use privately held land– in cooperation with the existing owners - for a public park. The park is to include public bathroom facilities near the existing boat launch ramp. The parking area for the dock will also be built out so that people can further enjoy the area.
Whether it was a response to the public outcry or the fact that it is an election year, the swiftness by which government has reacted to the South Sound development has garnered a great deal of positive public reaction. There has also been a call for other areas of the island to be protected so time will tell if this was a one-off situation or a hint at a broader shift of policy change. One thing is certain,though; Smith Cove and its surrounding area will be the property of the Cayman public for the rest of the foreseeable future.