Sun | Sep 19, 2021

'Strictly by the rules' - Holness says issues with wife’s development to be addressed by legal guidelines

Published:Sunday | August 23, 2020 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson - Senior Staff Reporter
Juliet Holness, one of the principals of JAJ Development and Holdings Ltd, which is undertaking the project.
PM Andrew Holness, who has portfolio responsibility for housing, land and the environment.
A section of the development in Leas Flats, St Andrew, over which three neighbourhoods have raised concerns.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has promised residents of three upscale St Andrew neighbourhoods that their complaints about a development being pursued by his wife will be addressed “strictly by the rules”.

Residents of Leas Flat, Forest Hills and East Kirkland Heights penned a letter to Holness on August 10 demanding his intervention into two developments they claim threaten the ecology of their communities and the value of their properties.

One of the developments at Lot 21A and Lot 21B, Leas Flat, is being undertaken by JAJ Development and Holdings Ltd in which Juliet Holness is a director and majority shareholder.

She is also in the throes of campaign for a second term as a member of parliament for St Andrew East Rural.

Juliet is also suing Charlene Ashley, the owner of Lot 21A, for the title of the land – a piece of which she bought in 2012 for $22 million.

The drawings of Juliet’s apartment and town-house development appear to enclose Ashley’s house and land.

The prime minister, who has portfolio responsibility for housing, land and the environment, said he has read the letter and passed it on to the relevant agencies for further investigations.

“Obviously, it’s a matter that involves my wife so I have to be very careful about it,” Holness told journalists last Tuesday following his nomination for a sixth term as member of parliament for St Andrew West Central.

“It will be handled strictly by the rules and it is also a legal matter,” he added.

Sewage impact, number of habitable rooms approved for the property, traffic, fire prevention provision, green space and privacy are among the communities’ key concerns.

Those issues were put before Dr Nigel Clarke, the incumbent MP for St Andrew North Western, last Sunday.

In a subsequent statement, the citizens’ associations said they “accepted his recommendation that alternative courses of action be seriously considered in resolving disagreements towards positive results”.

The possible actions were not revealed.

The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, whose approval processes the residents have questioned, has been conducting a review, and CEO Robert Hill had said on August 14 that a report was to be published “shortly”.

Major Concerns

One of the major concerns by residents is the number of habitable rooms approved for Juliet’s development.

Leas Flat is located within the Red Hills Local Planning Area, which has an allowable density of 30 habitable rooms per acre.

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has said the development was approved for 2.3 acres.

The development, which was initially approved at 36 habitable rooms per acre in 2013, was later amended to 44 habitable rooms per acre in 2019, NEPA said.

Because the development includes Ashley’s private residence, an assessor of the drawings argued that the total development was 2.6 acres which, based on the regulations, would give a maximum of 78 rooms.

Pointing to Dr Earl Bailey’s analysis, the residents argued that the government-approved drawings showed at least 120 habitable rooms, with the construction of two more blocks to come.

NEPA, meanwhile, said that although some construction activities were yet to start, it was satisfied that the development was proceeding according to approval and in compliance with the law.

The residents have also questioned the sewage-treatment system which NEPA has said it is yet to approve.

“We have nothing more to say,” NEPA CEO Peter Knight said last Thursday when The Sunday Gleaner made queries about questions submitted the previous week.

In her lawsuit in which she’s seeking an order compelling Ashley to turn over the title for Lot 21A, Juliet contended that the absence of the document has affected the pace of completion and caused her “severe hardship”.

But Ashley, through the law firm Knight Junor & Samuels, has insisted that the title could not be handed over before as she was not privy to the drawings and only received them in July.

The Sunday Gleaner had obtained a copy of a letter in which Juliet’s lawyer, Rose Bennett-Cooper, said there was an error on the drawings which will be corrected.

The nature of the error was not clear.