The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has been locked in a dispute with residents of Subryanville, who object to the agency’s use of a property in the residential area.
In November, 2016, the GGMC signed a lease with Hilbert Shields to use his property at 100 Fourth Street, Subryanville, but residents strongly opposed the deal as both a violation of the country’s zoning laws and a display of conflict of interest since Shields is now a member of the GGMC Board.
In a June 13, 2017, letter to GGMC Commis-sioner Newel Dennison, a group of residents reminded him and the commission that Subryanville is classified as a residential area.
They also vehemently recorded their opposition “to any and all forms of commercial and more so (quasi, semi, etc.) government business” being conducted in their community.
In the letter, the residents argue that “the increased traffic and the many cars and vehicles which are now parked on and along our parapets which among other irritants have become a hindrance to the ingress and egress to our properties.”
“This street as do many in Subryanville floods very badly. We fear that your actions will interfere with the structural integrity of our parapets among other detractions. We see that the recent repairs which were done will be destroyed… we write to request the immediate removal of this interference to the enjoyment of our community. Subryanville has not been designed for commercial activity and we expect the GGMC to move as soon as possible,” they further explained.
Elizabeth Deane-Hughes, who has been at the forefront of the opposition to the GGMC’s presence, told Stabroek News that based on her research, Shields was granted permissions numbered OL/4MM/61/10, 4MM/7/11, 4PP/120/12 by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) for usage by Guyana Shields Resource Inc., a company he owns.
“Request to vary permission was not applied for nor granted so renting to GGMC is not covered by the permissions Shields has been granted; permissions which themselves are questionable, since CH&PA has confirmed to the residents that Subryanville is still considered a residential neighbourhood governed by the 1925 Act,” Deane-Hughes noted.
In response to the sustained advocacy of the residents, GGMC agreed to a meeting on August 4, 2017. Though Stabroek News was present at the meeting, Dennison noted that GGMC had only agreed to meet with the residents and therefore did not consent to having any of its comments on the matter reported by the media.
Attempts by Stabroek News to seek comments independent of the meeting have proved futile as Dennison maintained that the matter is between GGMC and the residents. Repeated attempts to contact Shields have proved futile. Residents have, however, indicated to Stabroek News that GGMC has agreed that the current rental agreement will not be renewed upon its expiry by the end of December, 2017, at which time GGMC will move out of Subryanville.
In the interim, mechanisms will be put in place for off road parking for GGMC’s employees at Earl’s Avenue and Fourth Avenue, in Subryanville.
Despite these concessions, the residents have not softened their objections. One resident, Bonita Harris, observed, “When the government acts in violation of zoning regulations it means that anything tends to happen. The actions of the government has made the residents more vulnerable to any Tom, Dick and Harry coming here and doing anything and this is why residents are concerned. Because it is a government operation.
And if the government doesn’t respect the laws and regulations, then who will?”