Although the use of parapets by persons is illegal unless permission is granted by the city council, land grabbing continues along Georgetown’s roadways in the absence of enforcement by the city
Recently attorney Leon Rockliffe, in a letter published in Stabroek News, highlighted the situation and several parapets that need to be addressed, including “The Survival traffic imbroglio at Vlissengen and Duncan Streets; Campbell Avenue, east of Middleton Street; Church Street between Cummings and Light Streets.”
He added that the city council “gives its blessing to the environmental and zoning abomination which involves the operations and parking of massive delivery vehicles on both sides of Middle Street.”
However, Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green, in an invited comment, said that he approached the owners of the business several weeks ago on the issue. “Only two weeks ago I personally spoke to the manager and they gave an undertaking that they will be shortly winding down the operations there,” he said.
When approached by Stabroek News for a comment, a representative of the company said, “The parapet will soon be cleared because most of the vehicles will be over at our new building at High and Lombard and soon the containers will be there. This should be by the end of the year,” the representative said.
Meanwhile, a source close to City Hall said that nothing will be done about the parapets because of lack of funds at the council. “Nothing happens to it because the council does not have the necessary wherewithal to break it up… It is wrong to utilise the parapets for your business gain, but what some persons did was that when they were building they cemented the parapet. Because the engineering department turns a blind eye, they would say that when someone concretes the parapet, it already concrete and they cannot do anything about it,” the source said.
Green further said that when the council sought to tidy the parapets and bring in some revenue, they approached several business entities that were erecting structures on the parapets, but was “shot down by the Ministry of Local Government.”
“We approached GPL [Guyana Power and Light] saying that you are a commercial entity and you plant poles on our parapets which we have responsibility for and we are seeking some arrangement, to pay a rental or a fee for each pole planted. This is 15 years ago. I initiated those discussions and got the then GPL manager to agree in principle that they ought to pay us a fee,” he also recalled.
“When we sought to consummate those discussions, the Ministry of Local Government intervened, passing some sub clause saying that we are not entitled to charge GPL a fee for the poles they plant on parapets for which we have responsibility,” Green added.
Green also pointed out that when the city granted permission to GT&T for signs to be erected several years ago, the Ministry of Works, without consulting the city, removed them, thereby denying the city an opportunity to earn revenue. “That has an effect on the council. The business community, particularly in the extant environment, now has a great fear to do any business with us. Seems as though this is yet another assault on the city council,” Green asserted.
He also informed that he has made several requests to meet with the Town Clerk Carol Sooba to decide on how the parapets should be utilised but to date she has refused to meet with the council. “I wrote the present Town Clerk seeking to get a formal council decision so that we can call in the business people and work out a rate…. Some we won’t have a problem with. Others we want to keep the greenery but the Town Clerk has refused to call the meeting with the Investment and Development Committee to discuss this matter,” he said.
Green added that the use of parapets by individuals is a “regime of lawlessness” and a problem that has to do with the Georgetown Development Plan that is not being implemented by the government. “Every initiative we have taken has been frustrated by the government,” he argued.
The Mayor acknowledged that there are some laws that exist, but added that the council “has not been enforcing them scrupulously for a number of complex reasons, including the lack of motivated personnel and also the insertion of a Town Clerk who the council has problems with.”