The Georgetown municipality has challenged the right of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) to object to its decision to allow the construction of a seventh floor at the Camp and Robb streets junction, while claiming that its approval does not in any way affect the High Court injunction that was issued to block the development.
The CH&PA, in a letter dated August 29, 2016, told Town Clerk Royston King that no approval should have been given to the owner of the building for the addition without first seeking its approval.
Acting Chief Planning Officer Fayola Azore, writing on behalf of the agency, had also claimed that the granting of permission by the city is a violation of a High Court order which granted CH&PA an injunction restraining developer Rizwan Khan from proceeding with the construction of a seventh floor.
However, King, in a letter dated September 1, 2016, has challenged CH&PA to identify the specific provision under the Town and Country Planning Act which legally necessitates the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) to submit all applications and proposals for the development to CH&PA for it permission or prohibition.
King further noted that the mandates of the CH&PA and the M&CC, through its engineering department, are different.
The CH&PA, according to Section 22 of the Town and Country Planning Act, may pull down or alter any building so as to bring it into conformity with a pre-existing scheme, according to King.
Meanwhile, Section 302 (22) of the Municipality and District Councils Act gives the City Council the power to regulate the number, dimensions and general character and style of buildings to be erected in different portions of the city and any other matter connected with the erection of buildings.
Specifically Georgetown Building By-law 7 also provides for the City Engineer to signify in writing his approval or disapproval of the building operations to the person proposing to execute same.
“The power to grant or approve the erection of a new building or the alteration of an old building lies with the City Engineer and not the CH&PA,” King argues, while adding that the Act does not make the engineer subject to the CH&PA.
Attempts by Stabroek News to seek a response from the CH&PA on Friday proved futile as Azore is presently on leave.
However, Section 21 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act states that “from and after the date of the first publication in the Gazette of a resolution by the central authority to prepare or adopt a scheme it shall be the duty of the local authority of the area to which the resolution relates to submit all applications and proposals for development within the area to the central community for their permission or prohibition thereof.”
This provision as well as the Act’s definition of local authority, which specifically lists the Georgetown City Council, clearly suggests that the M&CC is legally bound to submit buildings plans to the CH&PA.
Additionally, a legal opinion shared with Stabroek News, in which it has been noted that resolution passed on the May 3, 1983 and gazetted in May 21, 1983, made the scheme that is the city of Georgetown subject to CH&PA. Therefore, as of May 21, 1983 the M&CC has been duty bound to submit such applications to the city.
In his letter, King noted that as the M&CC is not a party to the High Court proceedings instituted by CH&PA, it granting permission does not derogate from the injunction granted in favour of the CH&PA.
“M&CC in granting permission is exercising its statutory mandate in a lawful manner. Whether Khan can act on that permission having regard to the injunction is not a matter for the M&CC who are not parties to those proceedings. M&CC are by no means authorizing Mr. Khan to flout the order of court in grant of its permission,” King concludes.
Meanwhile, Khan has told Stabroek News that the back and forth is making him afraid that he will lose his nearly $500M investment.
Khan, who contacted Stabroek News on Friday, said that he has been attempting to comply with the request of both the M&CC and the CH&PA.
“CH&PA wrote me in July saying that a seventh floor addition to the building can’t be approved because it will affect the skyline and there are concerns about what the structure can hold,” he said.
According to Khan, he then had two separate engineering firms conduct structural assessments which showed that the building can take not just a seventh but also an eighth floor.
Having completed 50% of the work on the seventh floor before being served with the injunction to halt works, Khan is fearful of losing the promised investment from a call centre operator for whom he is constructing the building, especially since his bank is refusing to give him any more money until they see an approved plan from both agencies.
“I’m stuck between CH&PA and City Hall and now I’m behind schedule because this building should’ve been completed last week at the end of August,” he said.
Khan is also claiming that he has appealed to central government which has been unresponsive. “I went to see Minister Ronald Bulkan and he said he can’t intervene. I wrote the president over two months ago and he hasn’t responded. I can’t get to see these people, they always in a meeting. Everyday a meeting and I’m losing money. They got you moving in circles like you walking with a calabash begging. If the investor pull out, what am I going to do with that building? It will be a white elephant and I’m going to be bankrupt,” Khan said.