Some parties have privately and publicly noted their concerns about the timing of processing of claims submitted to the National Roads Authority (NRA) in relation to public road plans. Alric Lindsay, chairman of the new NRA board, has now confirmed that a more streamlined process will be announced soon, including timelines for claim resolutions and processing by the Assessment Committee if that option is preferred by the party making a claim.
Why claims are submitted
For those who are not familiar with these types of claims, whenever roads are expected to be classified and scheduled as public roads (which are further categorized as primary arterial roads, secondary arterial roads, collector roads, access roads and public footpaths) or where any particular portion of land is needed for the layout of a new public road or the widening or diverting of an existing public road, a declaration to that effect appears in the Cayman Islands Gazette, along with the block and parcels affected.
Upon seeing the public road declaration or gazette, persons with legal title to the relevant property would normally submit a notice of intent to make a claim for compensation for the land or the portion of it that the government has published its intention to use as a public road.
Process of settling claims
Once a claim is submitted, there are two ways to settle claims; option 1 being the settlement of claims by agreement between the NRA and the claimant and option 2 being the submission of the claim by the NRA to the Assessment Committee.
Commenting on this process, the NRA board chairman said:
In normal circumstances, the Lands & Survey Department will complete a valuation of the relevant property. The NRA board may place reliance on the expertise of the Lands & Survey Department in doing valuations or the NRA board may require other valuations to be completed. Sometimes, the party making the claim agrees to the valuation. Sometimes, they do not. If negotiations continue for a long period without the involvement of the Assessment Committee, then the claims settlement process may take a longer time. The new board is now addressing this and has agreed to better streamline this process.
In terms of better streamlining, the NRA board chairman explained that “going forward, each party will be informed of the response times for offers and counteroffers in relation to claims and, where the party does not agree to the terms of a settlement within a period of time, the NRA may forward the claim directly to the Assessment Committee for final consideration.”
The intention is that, all things being equal, the proposed, agreed response times will provide more certainty of timing for parties submitting claims.
As the NRA board chairman noted, following a short, fixed time period of offers and counteroffers, if the party making a claim does not agree to the valuation, then the Assessment Committee will provide a resolution.
Just for information purposes, in terms of composition, the Assessment Committee is required under the Roads Act to be made up of a magistrate, designated by the Governor, who shall be chairman of the Committee, a Justice of the Peace chosen by the magistrate and one other member chosen by the magistrate from the panel of persons (under the Roads Act, the Governor shall, from time to time, appoint a panel of six persons appearing to him to be knowledgeable in matters relating to land values).
In terms of what the Assessment Committee will look at when assessing compensation, the Roads Act says that the Assessment Committee will be guided by the terms of the Second Schedule appearing at the end of the Roads Act.
The outcome of the streamlining by the new NRA board means that parties may now have the benefit of a shorter period of time when waiting to hear from the NRA on claims submissions and settlement proposals.
As mentioned above, if the parties do not agree to the settlement, then the Assessment Committee will be asked to deal. In terms of the Assessment Committee though, that committee will be subject to its own timing and procedures (which the NRA does not control), however, the procedures to be adopted by the Assessment Committee will hopefully take into consideration the certainty of timing that the new NRA board is seeking.