GREAT BAY – Vromi-Minister Christophe Emmanuel has ordered Bobby’s Marina to break down all structures it has built without a building permit at its facilities in Great Bay. The deadline for the order is next week Friday, April 21, but so far there are no signs that the company will abide by the instruction.
The minister’s instruction is a decision pursuant to various requests from Bobby Marina’s neighbor and competitor in the marine industry Dock Maarten, represented by attorney Roeland Zwanikken, to maintain the law and to undertake legal action against the illegal building activities at Bobby’s Marina. Since January 9 of this year, in two decisions, the court ordered the Vromi-minister to take a decision.
Minister Emmanuel states in a letter to Zwanikken, dated March 24 of this year that Bobby’s Marina seems to be frustrating its own requests for long lease titles on eight certificates of admeasurement.
Vromi’s Secretary-General Louis Brown emailed the company on February 27 that he had contacted the Cadastre and found out that Bobby’s Marina still had not paid the fees for the processing of these certificates. “The instruction from the office of Domain Affairs to prepare the certificates at the expense of Bobby’s Marina has been issued since June 8, 2016.”
Without formal rights of long lease on parcels of land and water, processing requested building permits is not possible, the minister points out in the letter. In the past, the marina did obtain a building permit but that permit “does not cover the factual constructed objects on land and in the water,” Emmanuel wrote.
On Wednesday, March 22, Vromi-inspectors visited Samantha Benjamin, described as “the chief of staff of Bobby’s Marina” and told her to stop all construction activities immediately.
While they were at it, the inspectors also took a good look at the state of the premises and they found several violations. The inspectors found the property “quite untended” and noted that activities were taking place “that somehow do not fit a professional organization serving the marine industry for over 45 years.” Among these activities are sandblasting of construction material, storage of industrial waste, storage of huge uncovered sand piles next to Chesterfields restaurant, glass-fibering of a ship hull in the open air and high pressure “defouling” (intended is probably: cleaning – ed.) of a boat with drainage of the waste water into Great Bay.
That last activity is for the account of a tenant, Erik de Koning’s Best Boat Yard Services.
“All this cannot be accepted any longer,” Emmanuel wrote to Zwanikken.
The minister honored the attorney’s request for administrative enforcement with several measures.
The first one is that all structures located on the land and in the waters of Great Bay that are being used for the business activities of Bobby’s Marina – and that are not covered by the building permit the company holds –must be removed within twenty business days. Since the letter containing the measures was sent to Bobby’s Marina on March 24, the deadline for compliance is April 21.
Citing an article from the Waste ordinance, the minister ordered the company to request a hindrance permit for all boat year activities at its premises within ten days. The deadline to do so expired on April 7. The minister ordered that Best Boat Yard Services stops its activities immediately.
Another article from the same ordinance prohibits property owners to use their property for the storage of waste, debris or other old material. The minister ordered Bobby’s Marina to remove all waste, debris and other old material from its premises within ten days. The deadline for this order expired last Friday as well.
“In case Bobby’s Marina does not comply with this decision, all required administrative enforcement measures shall be executed on my behalf, or at Bobby’s Marina’s full expense,” the letter of Minister Emmanuel states.
Remarkably, Bobby’s Marina has six weeks to appeal the decisions. The deadline for the orders expires therefore before the appeal term; that ends on May 13.
Currently, Bobby’s Marina is using six parcels of land for which it has no long lease title. Among those parcels is the paid parking lot next to the Texaco gas station on Juancho Yrasquin Boulevard, as well as the parcel immediately behind the gas station, three other parcels along the water and a small parcel that runs from the boulevard alongside the parking lot towards the water.
In the water, Bobby’s Marina has extended the second jetty (seen from the boardwalk) and behind that the company has started to fill in the water for the construction of a third jetty. All this will have to be removed.
To formalize the situation, Bobby’s Marina would have to obtain long lease titles on all relevant parcels of land and water. The total surface measures 22,222 square meters. With the canon at 10 guilders per square meter this will cost the company 222,220 guilders ($124,145) per year. But there is more: “Because these parcels have been used for many years without proper title, it is standard that the leaseholder will pay the canon with retroactive effect for a period of five years,” Vromi’s Secretary-General Louis Brown wrote in a letter dated March 31, 2016 to Bobby Velasquez of Bobby’s Marina. In other words: the company will have to pay a bit more than another 1.1 million guilders (almost $615,000) as part of the conditions to obtain the long lease titles.
Attorney Roeland Zwanikken recently checked whether Bobby’s Marina had paid the fees to get the processing of the certificates of admeasurement underway but he found, just like Louis Brown earlier, that no payment had been made yet.
The situation at Bobby’s Marina is a thorn in the side of its neighboring competitor Dock Maarten, Zwanikken says. Dock Maarten obtained a building permit for the construction of a rock revetment on a parcel of water it holds in long lease. Port St. Maarten vehemently objects to this development and has attempted in every way possible to frustrate this development.
At the same time, Zwanikken notes drily, Bobby’s Marina has been doing what it does for years – without long lease titles and without building permits – and neither the port nor (until recently) the government has not acted against this company at all. In that regard, Dock Maarten is content that Minister Emmanuel stepped up to the plate by addressing the issues at stake in his letter.
“Dock Maarten and Bobby’s Marina are competitors,” he says. “There should be a level playing field but that is not there at all. Bobby’s Marina has been building without a permit on water parcels to which it has no title and it is exploiting a paid parking lot on land to which it has no title either. It is therefore able to offer much lower rates.”