Too close!

Too close!

Mandeville residents object to construction of gas station near their homes

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 27, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester – Residents of deCarteret Road and its environs here have objected to the construction of a gas station at the intersection with Villa Road, saying it is too close to their homes.

The objection preceded last Friday's massive fire at the Heaven's Fesco gas station here, which resulted in the death of 59-year-old mechanic Daniel Farquharson in addition to other people suffering injuries. Three individuals remain hospitalised.

The fire, which caused extensive damage to the gas station as well as 12 motor vehicles, has triggered widespread debate about how gas stations are being sited and operated.

In a letter to chief executive officer (CEO) of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Peter Knight, dated February 12, 2020 and signed by 22 residents, said:

“We the citizens of 53 deCarteret Road and its environs wish to register our objection to the approval and construction of a service centre/gas station adjoining our properties. We have invested monies in constructing our dwelling homes with the understanding the adjoining properties were for residential use only. Houses have been built [here for between] 15 and to 50 years. Absolutely no consultation was done but we are now seeing where work has started on the said property, which has caused some nuisance. Before the work started, we were living peaceably,” the letter read in part.

In a swift response to the residents, Knight disclosed that the environmental permit application by the developer had been “rejected as proof of ownership was not satisfied”.

Said Knight: “The letter of objection has been placed on the planning application, [and] the matter has been referred to the Enforcement Branch for follow-up.”

At the same time, a legal battle may be looming as, according to mayor of Mandeville and chairman of the Manchester Municipal Corporation Donovan Mitchell, directives have been given to have the developers of the gas station taken to court.

“An application has been sent to the council for a gas station, that is what I was told by my officers. Plans have been sent to various agencies. We have not received any comments, except from NEPA, that they have not approved the development,” he stated.

He added: “We have asked our people (lawyers) to get an injunction in the court because we have been having problems with the developers for another location [in Knockpatrick] that they have where residents are complaining that they have not had any consultations and their properties are next door to the [planned] development.

“We are seeking to ensure that all the necessary comments are received [whether for] approvals or non-approvals, so that we can advise the people. We want them (developers) to stop what they are doing now until the necessary paperwork are completed,” Mitchell said

“I see on the document that the applicant is Miguel Smith from Malvern, St Elizabeth,” he said.

In their letter to NEPA, the residents stated, “A gas station will disturb our peace and tranquillity. This will cause our insurance to now skyrocket; we did not bargain for this in building our homes, so we will use every medium necessary to get justice on this matter.”

Clive Wint, who has been living on deCarteret Road for more than 20 years, and who is representing residents, is adamant that the planned construction of the gas station is a threat to their property and health.

“The place [construction site] is elevated above my house. My perimeter wall is more than 10 feet high, but yet still it is just at ground level over there, so anything underground will affect me over here. Even just dispensing the gas over there the wind will blow it, and I have two children who are asthmatic and then with all that is happening around, it is even worse. The area was really zoned for dwelling houses, not for commercial use,” he said.

“All of us invested our funds in here not expecting a gas station to be at the back of our houses or else we would not have put up our investments. Five houses are extremely close by,” Wint said.

“The construction started in December and stopped for a while and then they [site workers] came two weeks ago, continued for some time and it has stopped again,” he added.

He said he contacted the Manchester Municipal Corporation last December to find out what was being constructed on the property. “I was told that nothing was submitted at that time,” he said.

“It was later submitted in January. A gas station cannot be approved quickly because consultation has to be done with the community. The [NEPA] regulations state that it has to be a minimum of 100 feet from my house. It is also too close to the intersection of Caledonia and Villa roads,” he stated.

The planning criteria for the location of petrol filling stations on NEPA's website said: “Normally no access to nor egress from a filling station shall be closer than 150 feet to any road intersection or 250 feet from the intersection of two main roads.

“Land should be zoned for commercial/industrial use or be designated specifically for the purpose in a subdivision,” it said.


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