Chuck urges developers to avoid urban sprawl
Houses like these on Hanover Street, Spanish Town, could benefit from urban renewal. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has called on developers to scout old properties in areas around towns and cities that are in need of renewal and enter into joint venture arrangements with owners in order to avoid complaints of gentrification.

He pointed to the ongoing situation of “chaotic and ramshackle housing developments” across the island, which has put many quiet communities under severe pressure from unwelcomed invasive developments.

“High-rise multi-family buildings are being constructed next door to single-family units, thereby changing the character of the neighbourhood and intruding on the privacy of residents. More significantly, the restrictive covenants which these residents enjoy and are beneficially entitled are being breached with very little regard for the well-being of the community. Citizens’ associations have joined together to fight back against these developments as many residents want to secure the privacy and comfort of their homes,” Chuck outlined at a Jamaica Developers’ Association real estate meeting last week.

He argued that it is not right that residents who are beneficiaries of a restrictive covenant are being forced to protect their property rights when they should have been consulted before development approval is granted.

CHUCK... it is not right that residents who are beneficiaries of a restrictive covenant are being forced to protect their property rights when they should have been consulted before development approval is granted

“I acknowledge that there will be obstinate and reluctant residents to any new development, but if a fair number of residents are in favour, then, in appropriate cases, the court can make a decision,” Chuck said, strongly urging that an apposite protocol be developed and followed to ensure that property owners use appropriate means to secure the support of residents in communities for any proposed development.

“It may be that the owner or developer consult with the adjoining owners and others in the community and provide an affidavit or no-objection letters to the municipal corporation, NEPA [National Environment and Planning Agency] and other government agencies before a development is approved,” he suggested, stressing that developers should respect the character of neighbourhoods and the privacy and restrictive covenants within communities.

Furthermore, he argued that municipal corporations should bond developers or have them provide guaranteed commitments to repair and restore roads that are usually damaged around every development.

“Residents in these new developments deserve properly asphalted roads to access their homes. It is a crying shame to witness how developers or their contractors destroy roads and completely ignore repeated requests to have them repaired. Developers, you are part of a noble vocation to continue to build Jamaica in an attractive and sustainable path and to contribute to urban renewal,” the justice minister insisted.

Meanwhile, Reynold Scott, chairman, Geon Group of Companies, and board member of the association, recommended that, with the shortage of building instructors at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), design engineers on development projects should be mandated to certify all stages of development before completion.

“If our engineers are required to ensure the structural integrity of their designs, along with the supervisory oversight of that work, why can’t they certify the stages of construction as the building progresses?” he questioned, adding that an appropriate form or electronic reporting method should be created to log that the building is compliant with the appropriate drawing. He noted similar policy in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, such as Australia.

“Issues like foundation that needs to be correctly done could be recorded before they are covered up. There is some lack of effective control, and that control could be transferred to the engineers. I believe that the level of employment would rise, so an increase [in development] would satisfy and create a more stable economy,” he told the meeting.

City engineer at the KSAMC Xavier Chevannes noted that the regulations to the 2018 Building Act address the issue, but those provisions are still waiting to come into effect. In the meantime, he said for mega structures, in instances where inspectors are unable to carry out inspections, a structural engineer’s report is requested.

Just last month the Government granted local developer Stratosphere Development full approval for the construction of what is being touted as the tallest building in the island — The Ascent@Oxford — to be located at 1B Oxford Road in St Andrew. The unprecedented development, set for completion by 2024, is to house a hotel and residential and commercial units.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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