Amending ‘Zoning Ordinance’ to reduce effects of major works

PHILIPSBURG–Reducing any possible adverse effects that major developments might potentially have on their surroundings is one of the primary goals of amending the National Ordinance on Spatial Development (Zoning Ordinance).

The intention is to reinstate article 28a into the ordinance.

Members of Parliament (MPs) discussed the draft amendment during the continuation of a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Monday. The meeting began on March 24.

Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Angel Meyers told MPs that Government had tabled the law proposal for the amendment to reinstate article 28a. This article had been incorporated in the zoning ordinance and had been in effect for 12 years, from 2000 to January 2012.

Meyers said that with the expiration of the provision in 2012 it had become “very difficult” for Government to adequately manage spatial development in the country. He gave an example of a development in which Government’s hands were tied because the article had expired.

Article 28a required developers who wanted to carry out major work that could have significant and adverse effect on landscape, water management, its surroundings and authorities’ spatial development plans to apply for a civil works permit from Government.

The permit requirement would enable Government to scrutinise developers’ plans to ensure that these plans have “sufficient provisions and safeguards” to minimise the possibility of any adverse impacts.

Meyers said the law proposal was not intended to frustrate developers or infrastructure plans that adhere to good practice and result in responsible development.

Only major development works such as excavation, raising, grading and blowing up of the earth with the use of explosives will be subjected to the amendment. Minor building and construction projects will be excluded, as these fall under the Building Ordinance.

Applications for a civil works permit are to be handled in 60 days and may be delayed for maximum of 30 additional days. If no decision has been taken within this timeframe, the request can be considered to be denied and the applicant can use the legal recourse in the National Ordinance on Administrative Appeal Proceedings to challenge this denial.

Meyers said St. Maarten was currently at a critical stage of its development and “it is incumbent on Government to properly manage the spatial development of this young country.” He also said the Department of Permits and the Department of Inspection had sufficient manpower to handle the applications for civil works permits. The departments had been handling requests already during the 12 years the article was in force.

As was the case in the past, a fee of NAf. 150 will be charged for processing of a request for a permit and another fee of NAf. 150 will be charged for the issuing of the permit. Meyers said the measure was not intended to be a revenue-generating measure.

“We need to ensure that while Government does encourage development, that this is done with due consideration for a proper and sustainable spatial development,” he said.

He said the country had a high population density. St. Maarten is ranked as the 11thmost densely-populated country in the region and he foresees the population growing further. He said filling in and claiming land would not make the 16 square miles of the country any larger. Proper management of spatial development is one of the serious issues with which authorities have to contend in modern times.

“We are all aware that Government has been busy with preparation of spatial development plans for some time now and this is a large and contentious issue. There are reasons this issue is so complex and so contentious and takes so much time – because of the high density of the population and the many competing interests for the development of land. This is why zoning plans are so important,” Meyers stressed.

“There is no plan that Government can table at this time … that can make everyone happy, but this should not deter us from moving forward.”

He said the law proposal was about reinstatement of a measures that had been enforced and implemented by Government for 12 years to evaluate plans for infrastructure and civil works that could have adverse effects on the surroundings.

Some MPs expressed concern about certain aspects of the amendment and the procedure. The meeting was postponed at the end of the second round of questioning, allowing the Minister to respond to the MPs’ questions in writing ahead of the public meeting on this subject.

Source: Daily Herald Amending ‘Zoning Ordinance’ to reduce effects of major works