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Large Sums Spent on Land Claims for Highway Widening

Spanning the last two government budgets on land purchases,in relation to the Linford Pierson Highway widening project, the Cayman Islands government has spent upwards of $4 million dollars.

These monies came from the fund government held for its George Town revitalization project and this has been confirmed by Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts. According to papers released by the Cayman government, the revitalization project had more than $5.3 million dollars earmarked in the budget during the 2015-2016 fiscal time period but by the end of the year that amount had dwindled to just over $1 million dollars. Most of the money was spent on land parcels on both sides of the Linford Pierson Highway expansion.

The money for the land grabs was spent in several phases. Initially, in 2015-2016 the government transferred $1.9 million dollars from the George Town revitalization project to the Linford Pierson Highway project. Later that same year, a further $1.6 million dollars was transferred from the same fund. Another sum that amounted to $307,000 was paid last August for land purchases associated with the highway project and another $243,000 was paid to affected local landowners last February to placate them. CI government is allowed to use this “takings clause” to assume lands or dwellings that stand in the way of a public right-of-way development project. The Linford Pierson Highway expansion from two to four lanes falls under this allowance and the government’s actions are similar to “eminent domain” in the United States. Along these lines, therein exists the rule that the party that owns the land is entitled to just compensation.

When this has been undertaken in the past, the land/home owners are compensated for the loss of their property. Inevitably, though, disputes and disagreements over the initial amounts of compensation can last a long time – often taking years to resolve. Initially the Cayman Islands government identified three homes along the northerly portion of the Linford Pierson Highway that needed to be demolished in order for the road to be expanded. The government will relocate the homeowners of these properties and they want to remain in the same neighborhood. A dispute with one landowner has arisen due to the amount of land the government proposed to take away to build the new road. This dispute is ongoing.

The broadening of the two roads into central George Town is a big partof the current government’s determination to reinvigorate the downtown George Town district. With the road redesign, the end goal is to alleviate traffic blockage into the central business district from other areas of the island. The ambitious undertaking will not be finished until the end of 2017.

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