• Bid to overturn Dingman project approval today
• Top planner called for 50% cut to three storeys
• But authority gave nod for six despite objector
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Lyford Cay residents will today bid to block a controversial condo project, which speculation previously linked to FTX, after planning authorities approved the doubling of its height beyond that recommended by their technical advisers.
The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board is due this morning to hear arguments from the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association and others as to why the Town Planning Committee was "irrational" in approving the Eastmor Properties project, headed by Michael Dingman's son, David, even though approval was conditioned on its original nine-storey height being slashed by one-third.
Documents filed for the appeal, and which have been obtained by Tribune Business, reveal that the Town Planning Committee last August appears to have either rejected, or ignored, advice from Jehan Wallace, the Department of Physical Planning's chief physical planner, which called for the condo development's height to be reduced even further to just three storeys - a 50 percent reduction on what was ultimately approved.
Ms Wallace, in an August 23, 2022, paper submitted to the Town Planning Committee noted that some 182 of the 190 written comments received by the Department as part of public consultation "outlined various reasons of opposition to the project and request that the Committee refuse the application".
Noting that the Department of Physical Planning had visited the project site at Hibiscus Drive West, she added: "Based on all the information provided, the Department does not recommend approval for the proposed nine-storey, 72-unit multi-family development. It is an overdevelopment of the site and is out of scale and character for the proposed neighbourhood....
"The Department recommends a density of 30 persons per acre or 50 units in total contained in buildings no more than three storeys in height. In addition to the submission of a revised plan that adheres to the above recommendations, a Traffic Impact Assessment and Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) is required for the project."
However, the Town Planning Committee, in its meeting held the very same day as Ms Wallace's note was drawn up, approved the Eastmor Properties project to go up storeys with 50 total units. The meeting minutes also reveal that one of the six committee members, Aaron Jones, objected to the decision although no reason was given as to why.
Keenan Johnson, the Town Planning Committee’s chairman, told Tribune Business in August 2022 that “after extensive deliberations” it had decided to allow the development proposed by Eastmor Properties to proceed to the next stage of the approvals process provided the number of units is reduced by 22.
He added, via What’s App message, that the Committee also wanted the height to be lowered by three storeys although it had deemed the development compatible with the relevant land use and zoning requirements. “The Committee agrees that the proposed use by the applicant for condominiums is compatible with the land [use],” Mr Johnson wrote.
“The Committee considers the proposal of nine storeys and 72 units to be an overdevelopment of the site. However, the Committee is prepared to accept a proposal of a maximum six storeys and 50 units. The above is subject to the applicant obtaining a Traffic Impact Analysis and a Certificate of Environmental Clearance.”
There was widespread speculation, none of which could be proven or confirmed, during last summer's Town Planning hearings that the project was targeted at providing accommodation for FTX's expatriate workforce. Allyson Maynard-Gibson KC, Eastmor Properties attorney, and Jimmy Mosko, its contractor, also held the same roles with FTX - the latter for construction of its now-abandoned West Bay Street headquarters.
It is possible too much was being read into these similarities, although Eastmor Properties had seemingly made no previous effort to develop a property it first acquired on March 5, 1997 - some 25 years before last summer's Town Planning hearings.
One source, familiar with the planning battle, told Tribune Business on condition of anonymity of the alleged FTX link: "That was the talk at the time. Then the view was that it was not probably going to proceed in the aftermath of FTX's collapse, but it looks like it still has life."
Noting the discrepancy between Ms Wallace's recommendation and Town Planning's ultimate site plan approval, they said: "The Committee departed from the recommendation given by the technical adviser. The majority of the committee actually approved six storeys and we don't have any explanation as to why they went from three to six."
The Lyford Cay Property Owners Association is acting on behalf of numerous residents, including Michelle Cove and Nicholas Damianos III, in seeking to persuade the Appeals Board to overturn the site plan approval. And Tribune Business has also obtained arguments on behalf of three corporate owners of neighbouring Lyford Cay properties, New Providence Ltd, Endauld Ltd and Brass Tacks Ltd, as to why the Town Planning Committee's decision should be reversed.
Robert Adams KC, the Delaney Partners attorney acting on their behalf, cites four grounds - that the Town Planning Committee's decision was "procedurally unfair'; that the regulator "exceeded the scope of its powers" in making the decision; that it failed to provide reasons to support its decision despite the significant public opposition; and that the decision was "mainfestly unreasonable" because it failed to take into account key matters.
Arguing that the Town Planning Committee had a duty to ensure the public consultation had access to information on the project's potential traffic, security and utilities impact, as well as the environment, Mr Adams argues in his May 12, 2023, submissions: "The overriding requirement of any consultation is that it must be fair.
"The public consultation exercise voluntarily undertaken by the Town Planning Committee was flawed and patently unfair because insufficient information about the matters on which the consultees were asked to provide their input and feedback to the Town Planning Committee was never made available to the consultees before the Town Planning Committee made their decision."
Mr Adams also argued that Eastmor Properties' plans to use the site for multi-family development "runs contrary" to the objectives of the Planning and Subdivision Act as the land was zoned 'low density' for use as single family dwellings. As a result, he is asserting that the Town Planning Committee "acted outside the scope of its statutory powers" in coming to its decision.
The Delaney Partners attorney, noting that the Investments Board permits approving Eastmor Properties' acquisition of the land stated they were for use "to construct a single family dwelling", not a condo complex, added that "restrictive covenants" also limited them to single family use.