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ILLEGAL BUILDINGS

- Tuesday 23, March 2010 -

6 out of every 10 developments not approved, says KSAC

BY INGRID BROWN Observer senior reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

 

DESMOND McKenzie yesterday said that 60 per cent of new buildings in the capital city are being constructed without approval from the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and warned that the local government body would not be bullied into granting approval to corrupt developers.

"Six out of every 10 developments that are taking place are being done illegally without the council's approval," McKenzie, the Kingston mayor, told reporters and editors at yesterday's Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.

"We will not be bullied into granting any approval, and so anything that is being done has to be done in a way that we are satisfied will stand the test of time," he said.

According to the mayor, one of the greatest challenges now being faced by the council is the credibility of developers.

"We have people who come across some money and in order to make that money work for them they go beyond what is required in doing so, and the problem we face now is what is approved is not what is being constructed," McKenzie said.

But McKenzie said the council has been clamping down on several such developments.

The tough-talking mayor said it was only yesterday morning that he gave instructions for the full book to be thrown at a particular developer.

McKenzie explained that the developer had built 15 two-bedroom apartments and 20 three-bedroom apartments, when he had only applied to the KSAC for building approval for 35 one-bedroom units.

This, he argued, compromises the density of that area as the sewerage system which was approved for 35 single units would be inadequate to deal with the additional units which have been put in illegally.

"There are other cases where after a development is completed, because of the strain on the size of the sewerage system, everything else that comes that can't go in is deposited on the roadway," McKenzie explained.

Town Clerk Errol Greene, who accompanied the mayor to the Observer Monday Exchange, said some developers have even gone to great lengths to get an override when their building application is denied.

"We have one development now where the developer has gone to the prime minister, minister Daryl Vaz, and everybody, the latest person being a certain minister to seek the mayor's override because he wants to build something with a particular density," Greene said.

This, Greene said, was despite opposition from the National Water Commission and the National Environment and Planning Agency which have indicated that the current sewerage system will not allow for what the developer is requesting.

The mayor also cited the Long Mountain development as one which currently has over nine outstanding violations.

As such, McKenzie said Long Mountain will never be taken over by the KSAC unless these problems are addressed by the developer.

Noting that governments have also been guilty of similar violations, McKenzie said under the Housing Act the minister of housing has the power to build any development.

Citing the Wicky Wacky development in Bull Bay and Caribbean Terrace in Harbour View, McKenzie said these developments were built with violations.

According to McKenzie, Caribbean Terrace -- where residents are planning to sue the Government for failure to relocate them to a suitable area -- was never intended to be a housing development.

"Caribbean Terrace was one of those developments built under the Housing Act and the concept was never to be a housing development but to be summer homes where people come and spend a few weeks, but things have changed and people live there," McKenzie said.

As such, McKenzie said the council has taken a position that in some areas such as section of Hope Pastures and Jacks Hill where the soil is unsafe for construction, no building approval will be granted.

McKenzie also denied that the KSAC has been holding up approvals for legitimate developers, noting that once the application meets the requirements, approval is granted in less than 90 days.

"We are now getting plans out of the KSAC well in advance of the 90 days, but the ones who are giving us trouble are the developers who want to circumvent the law and want to do things their own way," he argued.

McKenzie, however, said that there has been an increase in compliance over the rate five years ago, but said the council was far from satisfied.

As a result, the council has set very tight conditions for building approvals, such as insisting that developers reinstate roadways to the original condition once the development is completed.

"Failure to do so means we would not sign off on any document they would need to get the requisite title, etc," he said.