(CMR) The Cayman Islands Minister of District Administration, Tourism & Transport is attempting to work out a peppercorn lease agreement with Christopher D. Johnson to keep the local fish market at its present location. The negotiations are ongoing.
The exclusive update was provided to CMR on Friday after public pressure came to bear on the parties involved including the government. Many observers wondered why the government had not utilized their compulsory purchase powers to acquire the small beachfront parcel in order to secure Cayman's heritage. Some critics shared that the government had neglected to address the issue until it became too much of a contentious issue.
Johnson had issued legal documents recently seeking to evict the various fishermen who have been using the location for well over 25 years. They shared that the market had actually been there for at least 50 years serving both the local community and tourists alike. Some tourists make it a part of their regular visits to the Cayman Islands to enjoy fresh fish which they purchase and take to their favorite restaurant to be prepared to their liking.
Johnson has not publically spoken about the matter but in his writ, he claimed that he had concerns that they did not have a business license and that their “unsanitary conditions” exposed him to possible liability as the landowner. It had been reported by other sources that he intended to covert the property into a lounging area for tourists with beach chairs and umbrellas for rent.
The fishermen have remained firm in their position to remain at the location and had sought the government's assistance.
It was revealed that the government had previously made an offer to purchase the land which was turned down by Johnson. However, the latest development is that they are currently in talks with him about the possibility of a “peppercorn lease” that would allow the popular fish market to remain at its location and offer legal certainty for all involved.
Peppercorn leases are usually used to charge a nominal fee for land but allow the leaseholder to protect their legal rights in the lease conditions.