Thu | Aug 24, 2017

Unity Farm back on the market - NHT trying to recoup $62.5 million it spent in ill-advised purchase

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
A sign at the boundary of the NHT-owned Unity Farm property in St Mary.

Unity Farm - the St Mary property at the centre of controversy after it was purchased from a company owned by former government minister Dr Paul Robertson and his then wife Karlene - is now back on the market.

The new board of National Housing Trust (NHT) has again offered the property for sale after the previous board, appointed be then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, rejected a $35-million offer from the cash-rich Coconut Industry Board.

The new NHT board, appointed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and led by Dr Nigel Clarke, has said it was inviting interested persons to submit proposals to purchase the property, described as 282 hectares (697 acres) located just 1.3 kilometres outside of Highgate in St Mary.

The NHT described the property as gently sloping, suitable for the cultivation of a variety of crops, most of which are already in place.

"The property also has the potential as the site for a theme park, agro-park, or ecotourism activities. The White River flows through the northern section, providing ample water for irrigation," read the advertisement.

 

Offloading the property

 

This is yet another effort by the NHT to off-load the property which it purchased from the former government minister in 2003 for $62.5 million, purportedly to build houses despite warnings from its in-house technical team that it was unsuitable for that purpose.

The NHT then changed course and said the property would be developed into an agro-park, and put under coconut production.

But the board rejected a request for a long-term lease from the CIB and later scoffed at the $35 million offered for the purchase of the property, also from the coconut grouping.

Now the new board will push for an improved offer as it tries to recoup as much of the $62.5 million it shelled out, plus the millions more it has spent for security of the property over the past 13 years.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com