Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Court to rule on Birdsucker housing dispute

Published:Tuesday | February 4, 2020 | 12:32 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
The disputed apartment complex at 17 Birdsucker Drive in Kingston 8.
The disputed apartment complex at 17 Birdsucker Drive in Kingston 8.

Residents of Birdsucker Drive in St Andrew are awaiting the outcome of a judicial review of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC)’s decision to allow the construction of a four-storey apartment on the fringes of St Andrew’s most upscale suburbs.

The granting of an environmental permit by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), through the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), is also under review.

The matter was heard in February 2019.

Michael Young, one of 10 residents on the claim, said, in his affidavit to the Supreme Court in 2018, that the KSAMC acted unlawfully and in breach of the NRCA Act when it granted permission to WAHM Development Limited.

This, he said, was done before the company applied or obtained an environmental permit from the NRCA.

Consequently, he said, NRCA also should not have granted the environmental permit to WAHM Development Limited

The Kingston 8 resident also argued that the construction of the multi-family structure on what is said to be less than half-acre of land is prohibited by the Town and Country Planning (Kingston and St Andrew and the Pedro Cays) Provisional Development Order, 2017.

Another prohibition, he pointed out, was exceeding the density range of no more than 30 habitable rooms per acre with no more than two floors, indicating that the developer planned to construct 12 two-bedroom apartments and two studios of a total of 38 habitable rooms.

Young said that the KSAMC was duty-bound to utilise its powers of revocation and/or enforcement in favour of residents in the community when it obtained information of the developer’s intention to breach the conditions of the building permit.

In an affidavit responding to the residents’ claim, Shawn Martin, KSAMC planning officer, however, stated that the corporation followed the building approval procedure.

He said that there was an existing environmental permit and building approval for the construction of 12 studios on a two-storey building on the property, pointing out that there are other three- and four-storey multi-family buildings in the immediate and general environs.

MIXED MESSAGE

Martin also said that the provision for sewage disposal also exceeded the requirements.

For that and other reasons, the planning officer said, he subsequently recommended approval for planning in relation to the construction of 12 one-bedroom units subject to conditions.

However, during a routine check of the property in October 2018, then KSAMC acting Chief Engineering Officer Xavier Chevannes, in his affidavit, said that it was discovered that WAHM was building contrary to the approvals and permissions granted.

Consequently, according to Chevannes, a stop order was served.

But months earlier, Young said, NEPA issued a site warning notice to WAHM, citing the breach as being “construction of 10 rooms or more without an environmental permit”.

Young, in his affidavit, said that construction continued regardless.

It is not known when the ruling will be handed down.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com