HAJ defends plan for Long Mountain developmentSaturday, October 12, 2019
THE Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) has described as “long-debunked inaccuracies” recent “attacks” on its plans to develop and sell 50 lots on 20 acres of Government-owned lands, in an area adjoining Long Mountain Country Club in St Andrew.
HAJ Chairman Norman Brown, in a statement yesterday, said the claims are “strange”, given the findings of a 2011 environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which did not object to the development.
Brown stressed that after rigorous analysis and public consultation, and having established several conditions of approval, NEPA had granted an environmental permit for the development in May 2013.
Among the concerns now being raised by residents is that Long Mountain is a watershed area for the Mona Reservoir, but the HAJ said the National Water Commission has refuted that. Residents are also worried that discharge of additional storm water in the drainage channel could erode the lower slopes facing the reservoir, and that sewage from the proposed development could enter the reservoir.
But the chairman said these fears too are unfounded. “There is no scientific or geographical evidence to support the claim that HAJ's proposed development can influence the water quality of the Mona Reservoir either through surface run-off, storm water or sewage,” he said. The development, he said, will connect to the NWC's central sewer line, and will not use soak away pits or other forms of on-lot sewage.
Furthermore, he said the National Works Agency sees no challenges with traffic management, nor does the proposed number of lots exceed the threshold which would necessitate a traffic impact assessment.
Brown said all of this information was shared with residents, who were given an opportunity to air their concerns.
He remarked that while the HAJ has listened to the views of the communities, ultimately its decisions “must ensure the highest and best use of the lands that will achieve the greatest benefit to all Jamaicans”.
The proceeds from the sale of the proposed development are to flow to the construction and delivery of affordable houses in other locations, according to the HAJ.
Brown said that if the agency is not able to proceed with the project it will be forced to sell the lands to a private developer, but insisted that the HAJ would be the best steward of these lands as its interests are not solely commercial.
The lands are part of the 91 acres of land left following the construction of the Long Mountain Country Club, with the stipulation by NEPA that a portion of the lands were to be reserved as a conservation area.
Brown said that in July, after extensive public consultations during the EIA process, the HAJ met with representatives of Beverley Hills, Long Mountain and Karachi communities, who had concerns about the planned development.
He said that at that meeting the HAJ sought to address the anxieties of the residents by answering their queries and sharing a powerpoint presentation on the project.
The HAJ said it wanted to build a community that integrates well with the existing surrounding communities and that a conservation space would also be preserved opposite the development site, in keeping with the conditions of the environmental permit.
According to Brown, the HAJ is in preliminary discussions with the Long Mountain National Park, a registered charity, to allocate the remaining lands for designation as an active recreational space and national park. This national park is to include a nature trail, jogging trail, bird watching and hiking areas.