Building plan at Camp and Robb Sts corner was approved by the M&CC

Dear Editor,

Please refer to an article which appeared in your Stabroek News issue of Friday, March 7, 2014, headlined: ‘City Engineer says plan approved for five-story Camp and Robb Sts building -Vice Chairman of works committee differs.

Unhappily, the City Council appears to be facing a serious challenge with the smooth and accurate flow of information on such matters between the relevant department and the City Works Committee.

However, all matters and issues discussed at council can be found in its agendas or minutes of statutory meetings.  Therefore, if any member of council wishes to check on past discussions and decisions taken by council then that member can research those documents – minutes and agendas – of council.

Specifically in relation to the building works in progress at the corner of Camp and Robb Streets, the records of council will reveal that the City Engineer was accurate about that building operation. On April 16, 2013, the Central Housing and Planning Authority approved the plan for a Food Court, Restaurant and Bar at Camp and Robb Streets.

On July 22, 2013, it was approved by the Mayor and City Council.  As is known, the Central Housing and Planning Authority is responsible for land use clearance and zoning while the Mayor and City Council is obliged to ensure the integrity of all buildings and structures in the City of Georgetown.

Again, we are not sure what the Vice-Chairman is talking about when he said that, “There was no building plan submitted to the City Works Committee. This is against the law…”  It has never been the practice of the City Engineer’s Department to send plans to the City Works Committee; council usually approves building plans at its statutory meetings.  However, if the council wishes to change that system, and instruct that all building plans be vetted and discussed by the City Works Committee before they appear on the council’s agenda then it has the authority to do so.

Further, the suggestion of an oversight committee made by the Vice-Chairman is a good one. However, such a committee, if it is established, cannot and will not override the authority of the City Engineer’s Department as he seems to believe. The Municipal and District Councils Act, Chapter 28:01 gives the City Engineer the authority to grant permission for all building works in the City of Georgetown. Therefore, an oversight committee would enhance and help, not override the authority of the department.

Generally, we are a bit worried about the tone of the article. It seems to suggest that something is amiss with that building operation. This can create the wrong impression in the minds of citizens. We admit that the Engineer’s Department is very short on resources in terms of appropriate technologies and competencies, but we are trying our best in very harsh circumstances. Therefore, no one can reasonably and fairly suggest that the City Engineer’s Department is deliberately or wilfully mismanaging the city’s building code. The city is 15sq miles with new buildings being constructed almost on a daily basis. It is faced with many new and unprecedented challenges arising from different phenomena, including climate change and global warming. The council’s precarious financial situation results in an embarrassing inability of its various departments to access new and relevant technological applications which would make the municipality more efficient, effective and generally more responsive to the needs of developers and building contractors, as well as the needs of citizens. It is true that slippages do occur in that and almost every other department of the council (this is not unique to the City Council) but once discovered these situations are corrected.

Our building inspectors are doing their utmost to ensure the safety of all buildings and structures in the City of Georgetown, and to enforce compliance with the city building by-laws.

Yours faithfully,

Royston King

Public Relations Officer

Mayor and City Council

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