As building boom roars, residents claim steamrolled by nuisance
Like most residents in Merrivale, St Andrew, Hylton Anderson had settled in overnight prepared to enjoy rest and relaxation at typical Sunday pace.
But on December 12, around 4:30 a.m., the rumble of a convoy of concrete-mixing trucks at the construction site of a major housing development shattered the predawn tranquility. The noise nuisance overshot both spectrums of the islandwide curfew that starts daily at 10 p.m. and ends at 5 a.m.
“They had 60 to 70 truck trips last night from 4:30 yesterday morning ... till 10:30 last night ... . It was a nuisance. Can you imagine you have at least 60 trucks going back and forth?” an obviously peeved Anderson told The Gleaner days after the incident.
“Just imagine what, especially the older folks in the area, went through. These people are old, some of them 80 years old. Everyone one of us needs a break in life, but these guys overstepped their bounds by disrespecting the people.”
Anderson is by no means alone.
Another resident, who requested anonymity, has described the construction at the 36 Merrivale Avenue site as “a nightmare” since work commenced shortly after the summer holidays.
“When we were coming in, the cement trucks were lined up, so you can hardly see. There was nobody out there directing traffic or anything. Noise start from 6 o’clock in the morning, straight back until after 9 p.m. last night,” the resident said.
She is also miffed at the perceived indifference shown by workers and has expressed concern about the potential for damage to the roads by the heavy-laden trucks.
“All I wanted was somebody to just come down and say, ‘Guys, you know we have started building and these are some of the inconveniences. ... But it come in like seh it’s a commercial area, because they don’t care. Sunday to Sunday they’re over there working.”
She told The Gleaner that on some days, both sides of the roads are packed with cars and “dem drive like dem crazy”.
That sort of discomfiture could continue to ripple across the country if municipal officials fail to keep it in check.
Even as the Jamaican economy was in a tailspin, the construction industry was the leading light amid the gloom of job cuts and consumption crunch.
Construction’s 17.4 per cent second-quarter growth has significantly helped to boost overall GDP growth of 14.2 per cent.
But increasingly there has been tension between the countercultural forces of development and stability, concrete and steel vs community quietness and aesthetics.
Attempts to make contact with the developer of the complex were unsuccessful, as a security guard said no one would be able to speak with The Gleaner.
“A bad-mind dem bad-mind,” a construction worker said tersely of the residents.
But householders have criticised the Delroy Williams-chaired Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), which they believe is failing in its oversight mandate.
“KSAMC or whomever who give them the approval should do inspections just to ensure that they are in keeping with the construction rules and regulations, because this is not a commercial area. This is a residential area.
“You can’t be working at 6 o’clock in the morning until whatever hours at night that you choose to, so that is where I think Government is lacking,” the resident said.
But Carvel Stewart, past president of the Incorporated Masterbuilders Association of Jamaica, has dismissed notions that the Disaster Risk Management Act imposes restrictions on the construction industry.
“There has not been any protocols relating to that. First of all, construction is exempted from the lockdown, so once you are [a] construction [worker], you’re able to work whenever,” Stewart told The Gleaner.
“As far as vehicles and so on are concerned, there are no protocols, too. People will work as required and take advantage. However, some kind of community effort usually makes sense.”
He encourages the residents and the Merrivale developer to have constant dialogue to resolve the grouse.
“If they are going to do anything out of ordinary hours, we ask that they notify the neighbours and explain the reason for the discomfort. If you’re going to work late, we ask that you don’t really make noise, maybe a little hammering or a small hand drill and so on,” said Stewart.
However, Robert Hill, chief executive officer of the KSAMC, said there are clear guidelines on when construction work can be undertaken.
General building conditions for approved structures require that work be confined between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturdays, Hill told The Gleaner in response to queries.
No work is to be conducted on Sundays or public holidays without the approval of the KSAMC, he added.
But apparently unknown to residents of Merrivale, Hill said the corporation had given assent for the concrete-mixing trucks to come barrelling through the community on Sunday, December 12.
“The corporation was aware of delays that were experienced with the developer at this location with regard to cement delivery, and as such, he had requested urgent permission to allow for the pouring of same due to the perishability of the product. This was a one-off circumstance which will not be repeated,” Hill said.
Hill’s response, however, is unlikely to inspire confidence in residents, who have grown weary of the perceived hands-off actions of the KSAMC.
A householder told The Gleaner that the noise nuisance affects her work-from-home activities.
“When they are pouring the concrete in the nights, the lights are extremely bright. They light up the whole place like Christmas, but it is what it is,” she said in resignation.