Parliament to debate car imports, tall buildings

Traffic in George Town

(CNS): Two private members’ motions set to be presented in parliament next week will see MPs debate the issue of increasing the current building height limits to 20 or even 30 storeys, and restricting car imports to alleviate traffic congestion. Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart has filed a motion calling on the government to “consider as a matter of urgency” a traffic report published during the last PPM-led administration that recommended only Caymanains be allowed to import vehicles.

Meanwhile, McKeeva Bush, who is expected to take a seat on the government backbench after resigning as speaker, will be sparking significant controversy with his first PMM in several years when he asks the government to lift the current height restrictions on buildings in certain zones to allow for towers as high as 30 storeys. Bush said his motion is seconded by government backbench MP Dwayne Seymour, though he did not say if it has support of Premier and Minister for Sustainability Wayne Panton.

Speaking on Radio Cayman last week, he said he was proposing that government allow up to 30 floors, claimed that this made sense because it would reduce the development footprint and land area required.

“We are a developing country and we only have a limited space,” he said, noting that he wanted it to apply to hotels but it also presented an opportunity for high-rise homes. Bush, who was behind the decision to increase to ten floors, said he “took a beating for it but it was the right thing to do”.

However, he does appear to have the backing of Deputy Premier Chris Saunders, who has noted on a number of occasions the need for the community to begin discussing an increase in building heights. Most recently, at the National Housing and Development Trust’s groundbreaking event in West Bay, Saunders said that, given the current population growth, it was “imperative that we have a national conversation on housing, land preservation and building heights, both in the residential and commercial sectors”.

The population growth is largely to blame for the pressure in the local housing market, including the desperate shortage of affordable homes to buy or rent. But it is also fuelling the mounting traffic congestion, which has reached unprecedented levels.

Last week, following the country’s largest ever traffic jam during the Pirates Fest, the premier said that the government was planning to do something about the Cayman’s traffic woes and blamed the unrestricted importation of cars, suggesting that McTaggart’s motion could see some traction with the government.

The report that the motion is based on calls for only allowing Caymanians to import vehicles and to restrict this to two vehicles, that are no less than ten years old, per year. Anyone who wants to import more than two must have a trade and business licence or be registered as a collector. The report also suggested that temporary work permit holders should not be allowed to own a vehicle, and long-term permit holders must buy on-island or seek permission to import a vehicle they already own.

See the opposition motion and traffic report in the CNS Library.

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