OBJECTIONS MOUNT AGAINST BRAC HELICOPTER BASE
By Staff Writer
A project to establish a helicopter base on Cayman Brac has run into strong opposition from many residents, property owners and environmental organisations.
The Swiss-based company, Daggaro which promotes itself as “saving and protecting lives through airpower and technology” is behind the operation for what has been described as an aviation base on the Brac.
But concerns are mounting especially over the risks to the pristine island's fragile and important ecosystem, impact on tourism, property value and quality of life.
Daggaro, which has been granted planning approval by the government has already been advertising for an Operations Director for its planned Cayman operations.
It describes itself as "a seasoned start-up” aviation and aerospace services company located in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.
Daggaro says it specialises in pioneering emerging technologies through the exploitation and development of manned and unmanned aircraft, in three principal areas; a rotary- and fixed-wing operation, contract Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), and training for operators engaged in multiple domain environments.
It also lists medical evacuation,disaster management, aviation logistics and handling specialised air cargo among its services.
It's been reported that powerful Blackhawk helicopters will also be based on the Brac.
PLANS RUN INTO TURBULENCE
But there’s considerable scepticism over basing that type of operation on Cayman Brac.
The Cayman Brac Chapter of the National Trust, as well as the National Trust on Grand Cayman, are reported to be planning protests against the development.
Formal appeals have been submitted to the government objecting to the plan and a meeting attended by some 40 residents has also underlined the growing objections to the project.
In addition to objections by the organisations, property owners are also lobbying the government to review the application.
In a strongly-worded letter, the owners of Leitch Homestead, LLC say “the resolution to grant planning permission with very few meaningful conditions is an unsatisfactory result to this aesthetic, ecological and environmental assault on the tranquility of Cayman Brac.”
The letter which calls for a review of the Cayman Islands Cadastral Survey, also challenges a statement attributed to a Daggaro representative that 'we chose to live near the airport'.
Leitch Homestead says such a remark "rings hollow as the family has owned and lived on the property since well before the establishment of the airport.”
ENVIRONMENT AND WAY OF LIFE THREATENED
The letter goes on to list a series of other concerns including that the Daggaro project "would raze the only remaining remnant of tropical dry forest in the Brac's far West End" which includes a children’s playground and trails.
“The impact of Black Hawk helicopters on the family-friendly nature of the West End Community Park will be detrimental as gatherings like picnics, birthday parties, outdoor concerts, and exercise regimens are interrupted by the noise levels of these machines,” it says.
It addresses the likely impact on tourism stating that the Daggaro project will most certainly ruin first impressions for tourists arriving on our island.”
"Instead of verdant green forested areas, the view will be concrete and barbed wire-topped fences."
The risk to flora and fauna on the island is also of great concern, especially for endangered species, the detailed submission points out.
“Prior to approval of the Daggaro project, an environmental assessment by experts in the field of reptile conservation should be commissioned.”
“Given the small size and proximity of the Sister Islands, especially at the West End , helicopter and drone activity anywhere on the islands, regardless of where the aviation equipment is housed, would be disruptive to the nesting colonies and other birdlife.”
They also argue that the conditions placed on Daggaro to retain native vegetation where possible and incorporated into the landscaping scheme will not guide this company to preserve the natural plants and trees.
“The term 'where possible' gives license to the company to raze this West End property without consequence.”
Noise pollution, the loss of historical sites are also worrisome issues.
“Another tragedy is the loss of historical sites as a result of this project. The historic West End Turtle Kraal will be destroyed by the proposed development. Our national symbol is the turtle . Why would the planning board allow the destruction of such an important historic site?” they question.
GOVERNMENT URGED TO RECONSIDER
The National Trust of the Cayman Islands and the National Conservation Council have issued strong objections to the location of this project.
The owners of the nearby properties say they believe these national organisations who are entrusted with the responsibility to protect and preserve our natural and historical legacy should be heard.
They also state that “the Planning Board and the Cayman Islands Government should respect the loss of property values that will occur if this development moves forward.”
“What does the law require in restitution when a person's property value is reduced?” they ask.
In a separate objection, Diane Leitch Anglim writes from the United States:
“As a person with Caymanian Status and member of a family with property within 100 feet of the Daggaro project, I am writing to you to submit my deep objection to the approval of this project.”
She also expresses concern about the environmental impact on the Brac’s “rare and unusual flora and fauna – many of which only grow in Cayman Brac! And then, of course, the Rock Iguana which is so endangered.”
Her letter also shares concerns about the impact on tourism for Sister Island.
"It is hard to understand why such a project like this would be approved which will endanger the very industry that is so vital to the economy of Cayman Brac."
"It goes against how the Island is marketed to the world as “a nature lover’s paradise”, Diane Angliam says in her letter, adding that “I understand the Government’s interest in bringing development projects to the Island but this is the wrong project.”
The Government has sought feedback on the Digital Identity bill which is to be debated in parliament. Do you support the introduction of this Bill?