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Dillsbury dilemma - Residents, authorities clash over approval for multistorey project in community

Published:Friday | July 26, 2019 | 12:29 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

Residents of Dillsbury Avenue in Barbican, St Andrew, are anxiously awaiting the next move from two state agencies after they claim that at least one dropped the ball when it granted approval for the construction of a multistorey development in the area.

Attorney-at-law Gavin Goffe, who is representing the displeased residents, who say that the development is encroaching on their properties, on Wednesday, highlighted the challenges they have been experiencing with building approvals and protocols.

“One of the issues with Dillsbury is that the law requires them (the developers) to put up a notice at the site that they intend to apply for approval of these plans,” Goffe told The Gleaner. “And if anybody has any objections, they have 30 days to send in their objections to the KSAMC (Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation). Can you believe that in this particular case, the plans were approved months before that notice went out?”

The Gleaner understands that residents first saw the notice in March.

“The notice did go up. I have a copy giving notice that they are going to seek approval, but if you look at the date of the notice, that notice was months after the drawing had already been approved by KSAMC. When the residents sent in their notice of objection to KSAMC within the time specified in the notice, we have heard nothing since then, and it is partially because it has already been approved,” Goffe said.

According to the attorney, the relevant agencies are now trying to resolve the situation.

“The law says KSAMC is not to approve it until they have resolved the objections from the neighbours. So here we have a case where the horse gone through the gate already, long before the notice goes up, and the KSAMC has admitted that if that is correct, that should not have happened … . They are trying to see how they can, essentially, resolve everybody’s concern to their satisfaction,” Goffe said.

He continued: “The concrete has already been poured, and people are on the site working now.... Once the approval is given, if KSAMC is to now go and cancel those approvals, they are now liable to the developers for having cancelled.”

Goffe contended that a conflict of interest, therefore, now exists on the part of the KSAMC.

“ ... Because now that they have approved it, they have to essentially try and find a way to resolve these objections in favour of the developer because if they can’t do that, they are liable to the developer, so they are on the side of the developer now,” he argued. “Instead of being an independent regulator looking at both sides and determining who approval should be given to, they have now given approval to one party, and they are liable to that party for that approval, so they are no longer independent.”

Despite attempts over the past three weeks, The Gleaner has been unable to pin down either Town Clerk Robert Hill or Mayor Delroy Williams for comment on the Dillsbury matter and other issues concerning developments in the constituency. This despite numerous calls and a visit to the offices of the KSAMC.

The developers, however, are insisting that they have not acted in contravention of the Building Code or Building Act.

Brian Morris, chief architect and principal at Plexus Limited, said some of the misconceptions were addressed at a meeting on Monday.

“At the meeting, the mayor, town clerk, city engineer, and building officer explained to them (residents) … [that] our decision to use the sloping site the way we did was based on soil condition and the terrain,” he said. “More important, I have done construction in Dillsbury in the past, and there is an aquifer (underground stream) in the area, and water comes up in the basement of one of the neighbours … . Their pool house has toppled over. We have been quite courteous as the developers. We met with them. We would do anything to maintain their privacy, and all approvals are in place.”

When asked about the notice which the residents claim was not in place to give them time to contest the development, Morris said that while that could be argued, a notice had, indeed, been posted.

“Probably not in full view of everybody. They (the residents) were aware after the approval. I think it was posted on the building and not on the wall. I can’t attest to it,” Morris said.

Up to press time yesterday, the National Environment and Planning Agency had yet to respond to emailed queries about the Dillsbury development.