The decision by Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, who earlier this year approved the By-Laws for metered parking in the city, was yesterday declared null and void by the High Court.
In his ruling, Justice Nareshwar Harnanan noted the Minister’s failure in following the procedure mandated by the Municipal and District Councils Act, for bringing the By-Laws into force.
In the circumstances, the judge made absolute, an order previously issued to Bulkan, directing him to show cause why his decision to approve the Parking Meter By-Laws, should not be quashed.
The order was made absolute, after the court found that the approval or decision to approve was of no legal effect and was made unlawfully and in breach of statute.
The judge thereafter awarded cost in the sum of $150,000 which has to be paid by the state, to the New Building Society (NBS), which had filed the action.
The NBS had contested the legality of the By-Laws, arguing in part, that the procedure for their approval, as stipulated in the Act, had not been followed.
The NBS had argued also, that by failing to gazette its intention to apply for Bulkan’s permission, City Hall, the second named respondent to the action, acted outside the law.
While the court did not take particular issue with the notice of intention not being gazetted, it noted that newspaper publications on it, were not sufficient notice as prescribed by the Act.
The Act mandates, that the notice of intention to apply for approval of the By-Laws, be affixed to the building of City Hall. This, the court found, was not done. Justice Harnanan noted that news articles did not satisfy the requirements of the Act.
NBS had advanced in its application, that the implementation of metered parking had severely affected the entity resulting in great loss and hardship.
According to its Chief Executive Officer Anil Kishun, “the approval of the by-laws has put into operation a Parking Meter System which restrains and prevents our employees and customers from gaining access to our establishment without incurring large fees which is in some cases prohibitive or being guilty of a criminal offence which attracts a prison term upon summary conviction.”
In an affidavit drawn in support of the motion, Kishun said that prior to the by-laws, parking was available to employees and customers and the physical facility for it was made available at the sole expense of NBS.
After approval of the By-Laws by the Minister on January 3rd, 2017, the NBS, in early February, sought the order or rule nisi directing Bulkan to show cause why a writ of certiorari should not be issued to quash his decision.
The order was granted by Justice Brassington Reynolds, before whom the case was, at the time.
That period was, however, extended and the by-laws remain suspended.
NBS was represented by attorney Pauline Chase. Minister Bulkan and City Hall meanwhile, were represented by attorneys Judy Stuart-Adonis and Roger Yearwood, respectively.
Representing Smart City Solutions (SCS), contractor for the parking meter project, was attorney Stephen Fraser.
Though not named in the action, SCS, an interested party, was allowed by Justice Harnanan to make submissions in the case.
Owing to widespread public outcry and a series of weekly protest actions by members of the public, Bulkan on March 21, 2017 ordered the City to suspend the by-laws for 90 days, which ended in July.
The latest report from the City Council’s Parking Meter Renegotiation Committee, has recommended that parking fees be set at an upper limit of $25 per 15-minute interval and $100 per hour, inclusive of VAT.
“The initial metered parking fee for the integral parking zone shall be established as up to $25 per 15 minute interval (VAT inclusive) and $100 per hour (VAT inclusive),” the report, which was brought before the Mayor and City Council on Monday at its statutory meeting, said.
It added that the guidelines for booting should be set out in the by-laws.
The last parking tariff was set at $50 for every 15 minutes, after being reduced from $125 for the same amount of time.
Among other things, it was also suggested by the committee, that residential parking rates be lowered, although it was not stated by how much.
Furthermore, the committee recommended that clients pay for their time and not the space, and that the parties revisit being able to make transfers from one meter to another.
At an extraordinary statutory meeting on September 7, 13 of 25 councillors voted to continue the metered parking system with SCS, pending a renegotiation of the controversial contract with the company.
This committee has reportedly met on several occasions to assess the contract, its amendment and the parking meter by-laws.