Objections to new construction wrongly set aside, judge says

Objections to new construction  wrongly set aside, judge says

PHILIPSBURG--Three residents of Pointe Blanche have successfully appealed Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure  VROMI Egbert Doran’s decision to grant a building permit to the leaseholder of a plot at Goldfinch Road on the Pointe Blanche coast.

  The judge ruled in favour of the three plaintiffs who objected to the granting of the building permit last year. Doran, who previously set aside the residents’ objections without motivation, must now take a decision on the submitted objections within eight weeks. The long-running disagreement is therefore not over.

  Despite the fact that the neighbours objected immediately after the granting of the building permit and a hearing took place on November 10, 2020, the plot has now been built on. Local residents look at a structure that exceeds the maximum permitted building: it is too close to the road, too close to the rear boundary, too close to the high-water line and the foundation is higher than the permitted 1.2 metres.

  “In violation of building and housing regulations, the application, the drawings and the description of the buildings do not comply with the regulations, and the building poses a danger as well as nuisance to the environment,” said lawyer Fehmi Kemal  Kutluer of Lexwell Attorneys at Law on behalf of the plaintiffs.

  The builder, who obtained the right of leasehold for the plot in 2014, received a rejection twice on the application for a building permit, First the application of February 16, 2017, was rejected, then VROMI advised negatively on the application of November 12, 2019.

  According to the Secretary-General (SG) of VROMI, however, with the issue in leasehold in 2014 the expectation was raised that a building permit could be obtained. The SG said that on May 29, 2020, the leaseholder still received permission to build.

  The publication of the building permit on June 12, 2020, led to three objections: residents made their grievances known on June 21 and 29 and on July 20, 2020. The objections committee organised a hearing on November 10, 2020.

  The objections committee advised the VROMI Minister on November 27, 2020, to declare the residents’ objections well-founded and to revoke the building permit. But VROMI decided otherwise. The objections were dismissed more than three months later, on March 3, 2021.

  According to State Attorney Richard Gibson, the objections committee’s advice was not valid because “the advice was not made with integrity.” Gibson refers to the chairman of the Objections Committee who would have acted “biased, incomplete and contradictory.”

  The court is of the opinion that it has not been shown that the leaseholder has not been given sufficient opportunity to express his point of view.  “After all, shortly before the hearing, he submitted documents that were included in the assessment.”

  The fact that the man did not appear at the hearing does not make the advice of the objections committee invalid, says lawyer Kutluer on behalf of the local residents. After all, the leaseholder could have been represented.

  The judge agrees with the lawyer: “The fact that he did not allow himself to be represented during the hearing is at his risk. The court considers that, in the main respect of what the defendant put forward in the contested decision, it wrongly set aside the opinion of the Objections Committee.”

  The Minister or VROMI must still consider the advice of the Objections Committee from the court and come up with a reasoned decision.

  State Attorney Gibson warns that revoking the building permit would have far-reaching consequences for his client. After all, that would mean that he would have to tear down the building.