MONTEGO BAY, St James — DEPUTY mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Richard Vernon is calling on the citizens of St James to assist the municipality in their enforcement efforts by reporting what they believe are unauthorised developments in their communities.
In a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer West, Vernon stated that while the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC), as the local planning authority, works toward regulating the developments in the parish, there is a need for additional assistance.
"We urge our citizens to be prudent and proactive regarding developments in their communities that they were not consulted on. Let us know and we will take the appropriate action; but we can't, at all times, know every development that is taking place," he argued.
The deputy mayor was responding to queries from the Observer West regarding the current issue of illegal cell towers erected by a telecommunications provider in three communities across the parish. These towers, which are reportedly not authorised by the municipal corporation, were built in Rosemount Gardens, Cornwall Courts and Coral Gardens.
"We would like to have a monitoring system in place, not just for cell towers, but for all developments. The monitoring system that we currently have in place is not at that point where we would like for it to be, therefore in many cases we learn of developments after the fact — and there is no difference where the cell towers are concerned," Vernon explained.
The unauthorised cell tower in Rosemount Gardens was met with much frustration from residents who called for it to be removed from their community, while Councillor Charles Sinclair (Jamaica Labour Party, North East Division) called on the municipality to explain how the cell provider got approval to erect the tower in Coral Gardens.
Vernon told Observer West that a meeting was subsequently held between the municipal corporation and representatives of the service provider to rectify the issue. The deputy mayor said these cell towers, which had all received stop orders, will be removed until the corporation is satisfied that the rights of the citizens are not being encroached on.
"The developers [said] that they have a development plan for the entire parish and they are going to share that with us. We welcome that but, most importantly, we as the local authority have a responsibility to the citizens of St James to ensure that whatever development — whether it is cell tower or other commercial development — is done in such a way that the citizens are protected, their rights are preserved, and we develop with best practices," Vernon said.
"Following the meeting we concluded that, going forward, any development done within the parish must meet the local authority's requirements. All cell towers erected that were not given a permit should be taken down until further assessment. The one that is in question, the one in Coral Gardens, is the point of contention. We are working together with the developers to find the most amicable solution for the problem, and I believe that in the end, we will reach that solution."
While the developers are said to have received a building approval for the cell tower in Coral Gardens, further investigations showed that the community survey was incorrectly done, Vernon told the Observer West.
"Permit was granted for that one and that is why they carried out the construction.However, where we have a permit granted for any development, there is a clause in your conditions for approval. As a developer, you get a list of conditions of approval and if there is any justifiable objection to a particular development, then the approval is overturned. In this case, we did our investigations into the situation at Coral Gardens upon the request of the citizens," Vernon said.
"We are not satisfied with the developer commissioning a survey. As far as the council is concerned, it is a conflict of interest, and that responsibility remains with the local authority to commission a survey for any development in any area — especially when the citizens are impacted," said the deputy mayor.