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DART Digs Up Controversy

A large, ugly machine-dug hole has appeared on lands owned by the Dart companies along the unattached portion of West Bay Road recently and area property owners are not happy.

The hole, guarded by a makeshift chain link fence, was dug to harvest the white sand abundant in the area and after excavation the valuable sands are being transferred up the road to the new Kimpton Seafire Hotel grounds. Dart company representatives have made it clear that they are in the process of relocating the powdery white sand from the spot across from the White Sands development to the public areas around the new Seafire Hotel & Residences.

Cayman Islands planning law strictly prohibits the movement or taking of sand, gravel, pebbles, stone or other fill between the high water mark and five hundred feet other than a very small limited amount per month. That being said, representatives from Dart nevertheless insist that they have secured permission from the Central Planning Authority and the Department of Environment to transfer the sand to its new location. How they secured approvals that contradict written law is a mystery, but it has been confirmed that Dart Realty is, in fact, moving the sand from the property east of West Bay Road to the Kimpton Seafire Hotel build site just up the road. They are saying it will be used for already government-approved landscaping plans around the public bicycle/walking paths.

The key issue here, and the reason there is so much controversy surrounding the works, is the question of how can the Dart group be given approval to move the sand, given the location and the strict requirements of the planning law, and how is this legal? Visual and topographical evidence of the excavation has been submitted to CI government officials and they have stated that they will review the situation. At the time of the revelation, though, it seemed that no publicly elected officials were even aware that Dart was in the process of excavating and relocating vast quantities of the valuable sand. There is hope in the community that some sort of stop order could be issued while the situation is addressed but as of the time that this post was penned they were still moving ahead with the excavation.

Many in the area have requested to view the minutes of the meeting wherein the approval was granted but so far those documents have not been produced. The laws regarding this issue are fairly clear in their wording and state that “a person who, without the express permission of the Authority, given in writing takes or removes any sand – from any area between the mean high water mark and five hundred feet inland thereof – commits an offence and is then liable on summary conviction to a fine of five hundred dollars and to imprisonment for three months in respect of each separate taking and removal – and a person who aids or abets any person in the commission of such offence shall, on summary conviction, be punishable in the same manner as the principal offender”.

Many locals and expats alike are wondering where the expressed written permissions are to do this type of work and even if they can be produced some are asking, “why was this permission granted for Dart when it has been declined to so many others”? At the core of this controversy is the perceived existence of special treatment/allowance for the nation’s largest private landowner and, moreover, the question persists of how deep does it go? At least for now, apparently, it appears that it runs at least as deep as that powdery white 7 Mile Beach sand.

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