In light of the ongoing issue between the Lamaha Gardens Community Cooperative Society Inc. and the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) over putting up a sign at the head of the community and respecting zoning laws, urban planner Rawle Edinboro says the group should be allowed to erect the sign since it would reflect the community’s “civicness.”
The community group had requested permission from the City Council for the erection of a sign at the head of Duncan Street, with a message stating no cattle or business. However, its request was denied.
In an advertisement that was published in the November 2 edition of Stabroek News, Edinboro said he reviewed the issue between the M&CC and the group and came to a conclusion that the community sign initiative is “a reflection of community ‘civicness’ – a key element in our thrust towards sustainable communities and an important motivating element in the desire by communities to maintain a sense of place.”
Edinboro added that he views the proposed signage as a public communication initiative to sensitise the public on what can be seen as lawful community development concerns.
“Given our weak culture of enforcement, an initiative of this nature should not be resisted but should rather be encouraged as a valued aspect of a community support approach to enforcement. It is important in this regard to note that the Notice does not in any way negatively interfere with the statutory duty of the City Council, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] or the CH&PA [Central Housing and Planning Authority] to carry out any enforcement action consistent with their respective legislative mandate,” Edinboro stated.
Meanwhile, he emphasised that the request by the group is in a bid to sensitise the public on good environmental/developmental attitudes, consistent with the status quo of the community as a predominantly residential area.
“If we are to be really serious about translating rhetoric into action and giving tangible meaning to government’s policy on developing sustainable communities and a green city, we must seek to embrace a bottom-up rather than top-down approach to community management,” he added, while stating that the voices of communities must be listened to along with their proposed initiatives to preserve order and respect.
To arrive at his conclusion, Edinboro explained that he used several considerations, including the planning perspective in the context of desirable land use/development objectives that can be gleaned from a perusal of the Town and Country Planning Act; the Municipal Management perspective, given the stipulations of the Municipal and Districts Councils Act, Chapter 28:01 and the Environmental Protection Act, Chapter 20:05.
He also stated that the perspective of property owners, broader community development perspective and precedence were also used.
With respect to precedence, Edinboro explained that the initiative is not without comparable precedence and he is aware that “No Cattle Allowed” signs have been placed in residential schemes that have been developed by the CH&PA and private developers before.
“The burning issue in all cases is that of the land degradation and public health impact roaming cattle can have in designated residential areas. One can, for example, point to the impact of roaming cattle on the functioning of earthen drains and moving traffic,” he said.
Referencing the planning scheme that would have been approved by the CH&PA prior to the construction of the community, Edinboro stated the plans would’ve sought to provide for orderly and harmonious land use development through the zoning of lands and preservation of amenities.
“Therefore, any activities not consistent with these objectives are not to be tolerated. This includes rearing of animals such as cows and the intrusion of incompatible land uses, such as commercial business in an area approved as a residential scheme,” Edinboro pointed out.
He added that once the planning scheme would’ve been approved then the local authority, the City Council must work in such a manner to ensure that the provisions of the scheme are respected.
Edinboro also noted that while it is the Council’s duty to enforce the law, the community’s approach represents support for enforcement that is relevant in developing countries such as Guyana, where the institutional resources are limited.
“In consideration of the points herein discussed, I see no reason why the Lamaha Gardens community should not be granted permission to erect the proposed signboard at approved locations within the community,” Edinboro said.
Town Clerk Royston King, when quizzed about the Council’s refusal to grant the group permission to erect the sign, explained that Lamaha Garden’s status as a strictly residential area had eroded over time as a result of illegal business being conducted.
King along with Mayor Patricia Chase-Green also stated that if they were to tackle the operation of businesses in the area, the council would have to, by law, compensate them for moving, which it cannot afford at this time.