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Councillor urges kid gloves treatment for people who build on public sidewalks

Claudienne Edwards Observer writer

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A picture of blatant disregard for law and order in sections of the capital city was painted at yesterday's meeting of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) Roads and Works Committee by councillors who complained about concrete structures being built on public sidewalks.

But the chairman of the committee, Councillor Donovan Samuels (JLP, Tivoli Gardens Division), argued that the people guilty of this practice needed to be handled with kid gloves so as to avoid potential riots.

Councillor Samuels' suggestion came after Councillor Neville Wright (PNP, Trench Town Division) told the meeting that in some areas of his division “there are concrete structures going up on the sidewalks” and that the KSAMC needed to find a way to deal with the breaches.

Pointing out that in some of the areas, such as First Street where the encroachment was occurring, the lands were the property of the KSAMC, Wright said that the encroachment was so pronounced that only the top of the road could be seen.

He argued that it was the duty of the KSAMC to maintain public order and told the committee that several residents in his division had been complaining that coal burning, taking place on Greenwich Park Road, was affecting their health.

However, despite complaints to the Public Health Department and the KSAMC the problem continues, he said.

Councillor Joy Cotterel (JLP, Barbican Division) also admitted that in her division there were buildings that encroached on sidewalks. She said that the problem spanned the municipal administrations of both the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Samuels said that in some communities it was difficult to take action unless the residents have a role. He said that Trench Town, for instance, had become a tourist attraction because of reggae icon Bob Marley who grew up there. He was aware, he said, that some residents were constructing rooms to house tourists, and so the KSAMC had to be sensitive.

“We have to go to the community and have a discussion with them about not building on the sidewalks,” Samuels said.

Councillor Dennis Gordon (PNP, Maxfield Park Division), who recalled that the council had to compensate a blind man who fell into a hole downtown, said that the KSAMC was being opened up to risk by allowing concrete structures to be built on sidewalks.

“The right to have good order is implicit in our actions. As a council, are we prepared to put money aside for litigation. We must accept that we are not enforcing the law,” he said.

Councillor Audrey Smith-Facey (PNP, Payne Land Division) said that community meetings needed to take place before the buildings are constructed on the sidewalk. She said the KSAMC regulations had to be looked at to see what could be done.

The committee chairman agreed that the matter was urgent and said that in order to prevent encroachments, “the council, as of now, needs to meet with the people doing or planning to do extensions”.

Meanwhile, the committee approved a motion calling on the corporation's CEO Robert Hill to establish a protocol for the areas where businesses will be granted permission to encroach on public sidewalks and advertise.

The motion by Councillor Andrew Swaby (PNP, Vineyard Town Division) also emphasises the need for the public to be educated about encroachment.

The motion was moved after Councillor Tosha Scwhap (JLP, Stony Hill Division) pointed out that motor vehicles for sale were being placed near Constant Spring Road and Constant Spring Grove, across from Merle Grove High School, on Constant Spring Road, and by Mannings Hill Road. She questioned under whose authority the vehicles were being placed at those locations.