Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Crackdown on construction breaches - KSAMC installs review panel to tighten scrutiny on approvals

Published:Thursday | October 29, 2020 | 12:18 AM
An aerial photograph showing the construction site of a multi-storey development at 9 Evans Avenue in St Andrew on Friday. September 25, 2020. Work at the premises was halted by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation.
An aerial photograph showing the construction site of a multi-storey development at 9 Evans Avenue in St Andrew on Friday. September 25, 2020. Work at the premises was halted by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation.

In a “bold” clampdown on rogue housing developers, the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) has announced a review panel and community surveys among major changes to the approval process for construction in the Corporate Area.

The move follows concerns about two high-profile multi-family developments highlighted by The Sunday Gleaner, which resulted in the one at 9 Evans Avenue, Kingston 8, being ordered to cease construction for violating building permits.

That development, and another at 21A Leas Flat, Red Hills, being pursued by legislator Juliet Holness, revealed situations in which residents alleged little consultation on structures at variance with the single-family dwelling character of their neighbourhoods and potential breach of allowable habitable rooms.

Chairman of the KSAMC, Delroy Williams, said that in the short term, a review panel would established to deal with multi-family developments which, he said, is to ensure that residents are made aware of the plans before approvals.

There were no details on how the panel would selected or its powers.

Many upscale Corporate Area communities have restrictive covenants - legal contracts the residents use to hold developers to agreed preferences.

The Sunday Gleaner’s reports noted that some developers started construction without getting the required covenant changes even as residents questioned the KSAMC and National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for approving plans without ensuring that modifications are done.

However, the KSAMC has argued that modifying covenants is not a requirement, while NEPA has said that enforcement is “a contractual matter between neighbours”.

In its statement late Tuesday, the KSAMC said it would now require community surveys from developers as part of what Williams, who is also the mayor of Kingston, calls “a transparent and participatory process”.

“We all have a role to play, and I hereby urge all developers to act responsibly,” Williams was quoted saying following an “urgent” meeting he held with members of the corporation’s engineering department and the political directorate.

Additionally, Williams said applications would be posted on the KSAMC’s website and that building officers would now be working on weekends to ensure that developers comply with orders.

“A very important part of the condition is that if your breach any aspect, it renders the building application null and void,” the mayor said, adding that the corporation would also be embarking on a series of meetings with residents for feedback.

Urban planning expert Professor Carol Archer said the changes to the approval process would be useful.

“I applaud the mayor for taking what appears to be bold steps. I encourage the mayor and his colleagues to follow through [with the proposals],” she added.

Carvel Stewart, a key player in the industry and past president of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica, said the measures are “a step in the right direction” as it is “reasonable” that residents have an input in decisions that will impact their investments.

However, he said the KSAMC needs to address how the changes will impact costs as additional charges could end up being passed through to purchasers.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com