Georgetown’s Mayor Patricia Chase-Green yesterday accused Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan of meddling in City Hall’s business and urged that he try to engage with her and the council more frequently before pronouncing on M&CC matters.
“The minister cannot sit in Kingston and try to direct what happens,” a visibly upset Chase-Green said yesterday.
“He is taking over from where the old administration left off. Everything the Minister hears he gets involved in, he has never written to me on any of these matters, he has never spoken to me on these matters. In this matter he would have sent a letter,” she added. Both Bulkan and Chase-Green hold senior positions in the governing coalition constituent, the PNCR.
Making reference to Bulkan’s recent letter to her on converting “green spaces” in residential areas for commercial ventures, the Mayor said that the minister was misinformed and ignorant of the laws which designate duties to the M&CC.
In wake of a recent court ruling against the City Council’s bid to use the Bel Air playground for a residential venture, the Minister of Communities last week wrote to the Mayor relating government’s objection to attempts by the M&CC to convert “green spaces” in residential areas for commercial ventures and asked that she halt such moves.
Concern has also been recently raised about the possible use of the Farnum Ground in Subryanville for unintended purposes as well.
“I inform you further, that the undertaking by the Council to convert green spaces in residential areas into housing or other commercial ventures does not find favour with central government,” he wrote. “Instead, it is the desire and expectation of the administration that local democratic organs undertake to maintain and improve such areas for the benefit of all residents and citizens within the confines of their intended purpose,” Bulkan wrote.
As a result, he informed Chase-Green that central government expects that any undertaking by the council must have the support of the respective community councillor, who must also agree for such an undertaking to be placed on the council’s agenda. He said in the absence of such an agreement, no fewer than two-thirds of the council would have to consent to have the matter placed on the agenda.
The Mayor said that she was “of course upset” at the minister’s public chiding which she felt was done without him being informed of the issue at hand.
“He has never spoken to me on these matters. He would have written a letter but he needs to engage us more, instead of pronouncing on matters. We are a part of his ministry and he needs to engage us,” the angered Mayor stressed.
“I have done nothing out of the context of [chapter] 28.01 (municipal law). I have said it quite clear -all of our open spaces that have been identified for playfields and play grounds will be used for play field, playground and recreational parks and will not be used for houses or house lots,” she said.
Calling on Bulkan to check the laws before pronouncing, the Mayor said that there is no need for a two-thirds Council approval before items are placed on the agenda if constituency representatives fail to do so on their own.
“There is no two-thirds support of that. The Minister needs to read the law. You get the two-thirds support in the Council if you want to change a decision of the Council if it is within six months,” she stated.
Chase-Green said that she intends to respond to Bulkan’s missive “very soon” and will outline the facts of the matters to him.
In her and Town Clerk Royston King’s defence, she made it clear that they have not acted outside of their responsibilities as stated in the Municipal and District Council Act Chapter 28.01.
On the issue of the Bel Air lands, Chase-Green said that the lands are owned by the council and only one section was designated for a playground. As such, she said that the rest could be used given the requisite permits by a potential developer. She said that a decision was taken by the M&CC’s Investment and Development Committee which had agreed for the development of a part of the land by a private developer.
The same principle was used when a decision was taken for the construction of a high rise building to be located where the former Guyana National Cooperative Bank (GNCB) at 1 Lombard and Cornhill Streets is at.
“It is a transported land for the council, at no point in time that entire area was to be used as a play field and for a housing scheme. I don’t know where he got this wild idea that all of these grounds are now being used for house lots. He has never consulted me, and I supposed he doesn’t have to, but I am the Mayor of the City of Georgetown and everything that I am doing is within [Chapter] 28: 01, and I have not gone outside of my responsibilities.
“For any housing scheme or housing area to be built on any one of those lands, it has to get approval from Central Housing (and Planning Authority), has to have change of purpose from recreational land to housing scheme and has to get an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approval. I don’t know what is all this rant and raving about he has not spoken to me but it is quite clear anyway that we would have given permission and that is the Bel Air area is subjected to the approval in principle subjected to the approval of Central Housing and EPA, they have change of use if they say no there is nothing I can do. So the minister probably need to read the law,” she added.
Chase- Green stressed that for many years areas are left “filled with bushes” and without anything done by any of the residents.
Despite her anger and frustration at Bulkan, she expressed the view that she is still willing to meet with the minister to engage in discussions. She said she believes that “There should never be a conflict between the Mayor and Councilors of Georgetown and the minister. We should be working together. We want to work with the minister… We are working with all agencies and we have a good relationship with them,” the Mayor said.