By Elesha George
The Development Control Authority (DCA) is defending its decision to approve the construction of a warehouse in the McKinnons residential area.
According to the DCA’s Deputy Town & Country Planner, Clement Antonio, the department was aware of what was going to be built on the property and so it made “considerations” and carried out the necessary “research” before approval.
“There is no background stating there was a covenant on the land and we can’t hold somebody ransom if there is no covenant stating what can be built there,” he told OBSERVER media.
Having been furnished with the parcel and plot number for the property directly affected by the construction, OBSERVER confirmed with the Land Registry Department that there is in fact no covenant for that area in McKinnons.
It means the site is not restricted to residential use and the DCA, given that developers follow the guidelines of the Antigua and Barbuda Building Code, cannot deny a commercial developer permission to build in the zone.
However, recognising that the area consists mainly of residential properties, the Chinese company, he said, has agreed to develop an existing back road, which spans from the warehouse to the main road to avoid heavy equipment being hauled through the community.
In addition, Antonio explained that before the one-acre site was purchased from a private owner, ample notice had been given to residents by way of a billboard.
“Before the development even broke ground, a billboard was placed outside, stating what would exactly be built because with projects like that, it is only right that we give consideration to the persons who are already residing in the area,” he said.
The deputy continued that the placement of the notice gave local residents 30 days to raise any concerns but said no one had challenged the development.
Retirees, Mr and Mrs Goathel-Williams who reside in Antigua during the winter season, originally raised the alarm about the building which borders their land. The perimeter wall of the warehouse, they said, was built so close to their property that their fence collapsed.
Antonino however, doesn’t believe that the building has encroached on the couple’s property, reasoning that only a licenced surveyor can make that assessment.
He noted that when they first measured the distance on the Goathel-Williams’ property, it was only 2.5ft away from the boundary lines and not the 20 front, 10 rear and 10 side outlined in the building code, which suggests that neither of the properties are within the legal distance.
The retirees also raised concern over the height of the building, which is an estimated 25ft tall. The building code makes provision for building heights anywhere from 36ft to 48ft, or three to four storeys high.
Regarding a proposed meeting between the new land owner, the homeowners and the DCA, Antonio explained that the meeting cannot be held until the owner of the property under construction returns to Antigua. This may pose a problem since the inquiring couple may depart Antigua by next month.
When asked if the development would then be stopped, the deputy said, “We can’t halt the construction based on allegations from an individual in that case.”
As for the homeowner’s threat of injunction, he reckons that they will have to make a justifiable case as to why they are seeking one.
Meanwhile, the couple refuted ever having seen the notice and claimed that no one was informed of the new development, citing that house-to-house visits and consultation with the community would have been a more effective alternative.
Mrs Goathel-Williams told OBSERVER media on Wednesday that she and her spouse felt so hurt that they are considering not coming back to Antigua and will be abandoning the property all together.