Sat | Nov 18, 2017

UDC stopped in its tracks - Court puts temporary block on takeover of Aquasol Beach Park

Published:Sunday | August 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
The closed gates at the Aquasol Beach Park in Montego Bay, St James last Thursday.
Security guards contracted by the UDC behind the closed gates at the Aquasol Beach Park in Montego Bay, St James last Thursday.
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The Supreme Court has put the brakes on the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), which had moved to take back control of the Aquasol Beach Park in Montego Bay, St James, which the state entity leased to the private operator Reggae Adventure/AquaSol.

The court has also given Reggae Adventure/AquaSol until October 31, 2017 to continue to manage the amusement park, which is located at the Walter Fletcher Beach.

Last Tuesday, the UDC grabbed back control of the facility when it moved in with security guards and padlocked the gates. The UDC announced then that the facility would be closed to the public for rehabilitation.

But lawyers representing Reggae Adventure/AquaSol rushed to the Supreme Court to challenge the move, with attorney-at-law Jennifer Messado, who represents Carlyle Allen, one of the principals of the company, arguing that her client was not consulted, despite having an existing arrangement until August 31.

"The lease expired at the end of May and we paid for another quarter, which ends in August, and have been in discussion with UDC for the extension of a lease and a new lease," Messado told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We presented them with various factors, all the proper information and supporting documents, and they simply turned us down flat and locked the gate. All our assets are on the property. it was a brute force thing. they lock us out," said Messado.

"No one, not even the tenants can get in ... . garbage remains uncollected because there is security all over," added Messado.

Reggae Adventure/AquaSol, which has operated the beach park since 2007, has claimed that it invested more than $60 million in the facility over the past 10 years and employs almost 60 workers.

The entity has also reported that it pays $2.9 million dollars every quarter for use of the 5.4-acre property.

"This is a trend," charged Messado, as she accused the UDC of acting improperly. "It is the same way Cosmos in Negril, that was in existence for more than 30 years, is now closed, and soon, what we will be seeing there will be massive structures ... . it's the poor against the rich.

"Montego Bay needs a property for the common man. It is now summer. ... . Why are you shutting down the park in the midst of the summer? Montego Bay residents have nowhere to go," added Messado.

She charged that the law is in favour of the operators.

"There is something in law called holding over of lease. that means that although the lease expired, it does not mean that there is no lease. Secondly, we were confident that we had a case because our application for renewal has never been properly ventilated and discussed," said Messado.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com