Legal Battle!

Western News

Legal Battle!

Hour of Grace, Pembroceschett at odds over land

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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MARTHA BRAE, Trelawny - The occupancy of a one-acre parcel of land on which a church, Noah's Ark Children's Home — an orphanage for boys — and a mission house in Martha Brae, now sit is headed for a legal showdown as the occupiers who have been served a notice to quit have retained the services of a lawyer to defend their tenure.

The Jamaica Observer West has been informed that in the year 2000 Holland Farm (Trelawny) Limited, owned by the Muschett family, leased a one-acre plot of land in Martha Brae, Trelawny, to Hour of Grace, an American company with affiliation to the Baptist Church International, operated by American couple Mack and Marilyn Locklear.

The aging Locklears have since passed down the operation of the facility to Dr David Hixon and his wife, Jennifer, an American couple who only arrived at the property in February.

According to attorney-at-law Leon HoSang and Custos of Trelawny Paul Muschett, a director of Holland Farm (Trelawny) Limited, the condition of the lease was that after paying the rental for the first 10 years, the occupants would be given the option to renew the lease for another 10 years. It is also alleged that after paying the first 10 years rental, the property would he transferred to the Americans.

The Locklears, who renovated a derelict church structure on the parcel of land, subsequently erected a building which is used to house the Noah's Ark Children's Home, as well as a building to accommodate the mission house.

“Although it was a lease, the lease was calculated at a rate that over the 10 years they would have paid for the property. That was signed in the year. After the first 10 years the lease was renewed at a peppercorn US$1 a year because the understanding was that they already paid for it,” claimed HoSang.

But, David Muschett, who is accused by his brother, Paul, and HoSang of moving to unjustly kick the current occupiers off the property, explained that the one-acre plot forms part of a 10-acre property which is now owned by a company called Pembroceschett.

He said that having occupied the premises over a period of time, the occupiers of the one-acre parcel have been given the first preference to purchase. The asking price is set at US$80,000.

“The land is now owned by a company called Pembroceschett, they acquired that land, the title was given to them a few years now and when the title was received, Pembroceschett's lawyers wrote the occupiers to say that they had a lease with Holland Farms and that lease expired in June of 2020,” David Muschett outlined.

“They either have to buy it or come off. When the lawyers wrote them they were told that since they have been there for a while, Pembroceschett will give them first choice to buy it. If they are not interested to buy it, the property will be sold to somebody else.”

The custos argued that when the documents to effect that transfer were sent to the Registrar of Titles, the family was advised by the Registrar of Titles that since the one-acre was part of a larger parcel of land to be transferred to David Muschett, it was better if all of it was transferred to him first, and then he transfer the one acre to the church.

“Before the expiration of the second 10 years, the majority of the shareholders agreed that the land should be transferred to the Hour of Grace,” Custos Muschett claimed.

But David rubbished that claim.

“Garbage, that is news to me. The title is clear and free and it was never subdivided so everything is on one title and they [Hour of Grace] occupy a one-acre piece, but as far as Pembroceschett is concerned, they are trying to capture,” David argued.

The Hixons, who arrived in Jamaica less than six months ago, are now left devastated by the uncertainty surrounding their occupancy of the land.

“It's been a trial by fire. It hasn't been easy so far. We are just praying that he [David] won't intervene and we are able to build even more. We would love to see more boys, we would love to see things expand and do more, it's our dream and vision. They [Locklears] really started a great work here,” Dr Hixon stated.

Meanwhile, HoSang is adamant that he will fight to keep the land in the hands of the occupiers.

“I am willing to defend them [occupants] up to the limit, whatever that limit is. There is nothing lawful that we will not do to defend their occupation of the property,” he said.

“They [Hixons] were advised to ignore the notice and that whatever needed to be done to protect their enjoyment of the property on an indefinite basis in keeping with the original understanding of the agreement would be done. Whatever was necessary to be done would be done and they should not allow anybody to come there and intimidate them.”

“They have no intention whatsoever of paying US$80,000, nor do they intend to come off. So they will take whatever lawful legal steps are necessary to protect their occupation of the property.”

Custos Muschett was equally resolute to secure the occupancy of the present operators.

“The company had meetings where all was recorded and those arrangements are set out in the minutes of the company,” he alleges.

Furthermore, he claimed that he would not want the Muschett family's name, which, over the years, has been renown in the parish for their philanthropic deeds, to be now besmirched. He pointed to the donation of lands to construct the Amy Muschett Home and the then Muschett Secondary High School by the family, in Trelawny.

Currently 10 boys reside at the Noah's Ark Children's Home with age ranging from eight to 14. The facility has a capacity to accommodate 20.

The boys, who all attend public schools, are mostly placed at the facility by the Government. In fact, six of those now residing there were placed at the facility by the State.

The two directors at the facility are assisted by an office manager, a chef and six women who work with boys.


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