Contractors at liberty to drive neighbours crazy

  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service

(CNS): Developers and contractors have been working through the weekends, including Sundays, while during the week work goes on late into the night and in the early hours of the morning, disturbing people living in these neighbourhoods.

But there are no laws or regulations that prevent contractors from working anytime, day or night, or curb the noise generated by heavy equipment and the enormous spotlights required to illuminate the worksites at all hours.

CNS was alerted to a complaint last week from a resident in West Bay close to a condo project on Conch Point Road, where developers apologised after their contractor had huge spotlights and heavy machinery running at 3:00 in the morning.

But the neighbour has questioned how the developers, Vida Cayman, were able to secure planning permission without any restrictions on when work can take place. She told CNS that she is living in an area currently surrounded by development, with at least five projects underway or about to start, and now has very grave concerns about the impact of so much construction work, with the resulting noise, traffic, lights and pollution, but without any legal remedy to give her family a break.

This is just one example of dozens of complaints that CNS has learned of over the last year, especially in West Bay, where the number of construction sites in once quiet residential neighbourhoods has exploded.

Eden Hurlston, a local community activist who also has problems with development in the once peaceful community where he lives, is frustrated by the disregard of contractors, and by extension developers, for the people living near their worksites. But he is even more frustrated by the lack of any regulation that would prevent this from happening or give residents a course of redress.

Hurlston told CNS that he had documented many complaints by his West Bay neighbours about construction work in various parts of the district, which takes place at all hours and is ruining people’s peace of mind for months on end, and there is nothing they can do about it.

Complaints to the planning department are futile because planning officials have confirmed there are no laws that control when construction can take place.

The police can pursue noisy neighbours when loud music and partying becomes a disturbance and seize sound equipment, but CNS can find no documented case in the public domain where a contractor or developer has been prosecuted for making life hell for their neighbours.

CNS has contacted the planning department with questions about this situation, but the senior officers we contacted have ignored our questions. However, the people who complained about the Conch Point Road development were informed by a planning officer that while there is currently nothing they can do to prevent the contractors from working in the early morning hours, the issue has been raised with the Central Planning Authority, which has asked the department to prepare a report for the ministry regarding construction hours.

Hurlston said that he, too, has been told that there is nothing planning can do about construction disturbance.

“I’ve been a musician for twenty years in Cayman and couldn’t play on Sundays except by special exemption, even if people wanted to pay to hear live music at a music venue,” he said. “But construction can happen, even in quiet residential neighbourhoods, at any hour, on any day, impacting people who don’t want it happening there at all. I’m sick of the hypocrisy.”

He said people building homes or commercial developers are allowed to pound, saw, drill, jackhammer and do machine work on a Sunday. He noted that he is not allowed to work on Sunday because of the law, but now he and many more like him are not allowed to enjoy the quiet peaceful day that the music and dance law was enacted to protect.

“Sundays are supposed to be ‘sacred’ and ‘holy’ in our Christian country,” he said. “But it’s okay to make any sound you want, at any hour, as long as you have a building permit, even in a quiet residential neighbourhood.”

The amount of development underway in West Bay is unprecedented, and there is much more to come. There are concerns, too, that with so many contractors working flat out to meet over-extended contract commitments, there will be even more workers on more sites around the clock.

This will compound the frustrations and resentment of regular people over the excessive development of buildings they could never afford to live in, which block their beach access, change the character and aesthetics of their communities. The peace they previously enjoyed is now being ruined for the benefit of a handful of contractors and developers who profit handsomely from their misery.

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