Patricia Green | Citizens must enforce development power
‘Illegal! Court slaps KSAMC, NEPA for authorising Birdsucker development’ was the headline in The Gleaner of December 17, 2020 for a multimillion-dollar three-storey apartment on Birdsucker Drive in upper St Andrew, pending demolition at 99 per cent completion. Gavin Goffe, attorney at Myers, Fletcher and Gordon, who represented the Birdsucker residents, stated that Kingstonians “now have a clear path to stop these developments and to hold the KSAMC accountable for having allowed them to be constructed”.
Ask citizens how they know of developments inside neighbourhoods; we saw a ‘Legal Notice’ in the newspaper, we see zinc hoarding across the fence, a tractorvator appeared then started to bulldoze the house next door! With Birdsucker, the court deemed government approvals ‘illegal’. Why? The answer is self-evident. Government procedures are contravening guidelines, policies, and laws. Developers are receiving various levels of approvals to proceed with designs and construction that flaunt good governance and sustainable practice.
CLAMOURING FOR ANSWERS
Where is the public sewerage system to sustain these developments? Why is the developer permitted to offload waste into the gully? What about the narrow access and egress on development properties? Is the building too close to my boundary? How did any developer receive permission to expand on to my property? Where is the construction toilet to prevent use of my fence and road? Who is responsible to repair potholes on my road from heavy-duty equipment?
A community call in The Gleaner of May 2, titled ‘Stifling in a concrete jungle’, states that writing to government leaders and institutions for appeals are largely unanswered, including “a letter written to Prime Minister Holness in August 2019, signed by four citizens’ associations in the Corporate Area”. Instead, authorities have left citizens to appeal directly to developers. Birdsucker is a prime example of developers ignoring citizens, including even warnings from the authorities. The word out there is fear. See I have a family to protect? Do you want me to get mixed up in ‘badman’ business? Some citizens cry enough is enough, and like those in Birdsucker mobilise funds for lawyers and brave court systems. The general cry is against irregularities. How are covenants amended? Why did the authority approve densities above those inside the 2017 Kingston and St Andrew Development Order? What empowers government arbitrarily to change use and density boundaries inside residential neighbourhoods without due procedure? Are there any citizens’ rights in building developments?
ENFORCE PUBLIC NOTICES
The Building Act, 2018 stipulates citizen notification under Section 18: “A person who proposes to carry out building works shall apply in the prescribed form and manner to the Local Authority for the appropriate building permit”. Its Item five mandates the applicant to place a notice of intention, “ in a conspicuous place on the land where the applicant intends to carry out the building work … that any interested person who is aggrieved by, or has objections to the carrying out of the building works, may register his objections with the Local Authority”. Item six sets out other nearby placing at (1) police station, (2) post office or agency, (3) such other public place. An application for a building permit shall be treated as incomplete under Section 19(a) “unless the notice of intention to carry out building work has been posted”. Further, 19(b) states the notice of intention to carry out building work shall remain displayed until the decision on the application has been determined”. These exist in the Kingston and St Andrew Building Act, 1995 Section 25:1(e) and others.
Citizens must demand government authorities enforce public notices accordingly.
Patricia Green, PhD, is a registered architect, former head of the Caribbean School of Architecture in the Faculty of the Built Environment at University of Technology, Jamaica. Send feedback to email@example.com.