Good concept, bad practices, claim Robinson re city high-rise boom | Loop Jamaica

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Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern, Julian Robinson, wants the relevant authorities to heed the concerns of his constituents regarding the proliferation of high-rise apartment complexes in their neighbourhoods.

Robinson, who raised the issue during his recent contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives, pointed to the significant increase in the number of new residential and commercial developments in the Corporate Area over the past three to four years.

He cited the number of developments particularly in sections of New Kingston, Seymour Lands and the ‘Golden Triangle’, which all fall within his constituency.

“Single-family dwelling homes are being demolished to give rise to multi-storey townhouse and apartment complexes. These developments have been good for the economy, as they have driven the boom in the construction industry, which remained resilient even during the COVID-19 downturn.

“However, for residents who live in these communities, these developments raise a number of issues,” said Robinson.

Among the issues he identified are:

1. Developments often take place with no notice or consultations with neighbours, particularly where there is an approval for a change in the zoning from residential to commercial. In many cases there have been violations of zoning rules.

2. Developers often ignore the guidelines and requirements of state agencies with impunity – increasing densities and the number of rooms, building more floors than agreed, and ignoring the need for privacy for neighbours.

3. Public infrastructure such as roads are often damaged during construction, and are not returned to their original conditions.

4. Inadequate water and sewage infrastructure to deal with the increased density of habitable rooms.

“Residents are, more often than not, powerless to halt these breaches. State agencies are slow to respond, if they even do, and in most cases, residents have to resort to expensive litigation at their personal cost to seek redress,” said Robinson.

He added that residents are also fearful of speaking out against these breaches, as they feel they are up against powerful, vested interests.

“To be very clear, I support development and the right of private interests to make investments in pursuit of a return. However, the way it is currently being done infringes the rights of homeowners in these communities, changes the character of neighbourhoods, and violates privacy rights. No matter how important the economic value of these investments, we cannot continue to operate like it’s the wild, wild west,” argued Robinson.

According to him, the state agencies charged with the responsibility of holding developers accountable are simply failing residents in these communities.

“Something must be done urgently to ensure there is adequate and appropriate balance, and that the rights of residents are respected,” he stated.

Robinson told the House that he has over the past six months, participated in meetings with residents from a number of citizens’ associations and community groups on these issues.

“These groups have written to the chairman of Parliament’s Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee seeking an opportunity to appear before the committee to outline their concerns. I will continue to support residents in their pursuit of orderly, well-regulated and consultative developments, and I urge the chairman to grant these residents the opportunity to be heard, and to give attention to their concerns,” he said.