VROMI has ‘no intention’ stopping Spaceless Garden | THE DAILY HERALD

ST. PETERS–Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Miklos Giterson denied “insinuations” that the ministry is seeking to stop the development of an agricultural and research centre planned by Spaceless Garden in St. Peters.

“This ministry has no intentions of stopping the Spaceless Gardens project or destroying the grounds,” Giterson explained. “It has always been, and still is, our intention to work with Mr. Wyatte to find the best solution as long as it is within the parameters of the law.”

“The point of contention centres around three concrete structures erected on the property without the proper permits in place and the non-compliance in removing said structures after numerous stop-orders were given.” Minister Giterson says.

The structures in question are located on government property in St. Peters that was originally rented to President of St. Maarten Agricultural Research and Development Foundation Denicio Wyatte by former VROMI Minister Maurice Lake in August 2014, for a three-year period.

At the end of that period, former VROMI Minister Christopher Emmanuel declined to renew the rental contract of Wyatte citing complaints received about the land use and outstanding rental payments.

During that time, requests from Wyatte to acquire long-lease rights to the property were also denied due to the location of the parcel being designated for residential use according to the draft development plan Cul-de-Sac, Minister Giterson explained.

After the passing of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, which destroyed the wooden structure previously built on the property, Wyatte, still operating despite the expired rental agreement, began to build a concrete structure to replace the wooden one.
In October 2017, the Inspection Department of the Ministry of VROMI learned of the concrete building structure being erected without the relevant building permit being granted as stated in Article 7 of the Building Ordinance.

“At that time a stop order was issued to halt all further building activities and to remove the structure and materials from the premises. Despite the stop order Mr. Wyatte continued to build,” Giterson said.

In early April, Wyatte met with Minister Giterson to request a renewal of the rental agreement. In that meeting Giterson said he offered Wyatte an alternative location from which to operate his project to which Wyatt refused.

As a follow-up to the meeting, in a letter dated April 23, the minister reportedly informed Wyatte of his findings that the area in question was being claimed by residents in the near vicinity of the parcel who claimed that their family obtained the land by prescriptive rights.
This prompted the minister to temporarily deny Wyatte’s appeal until the matter could be fully reviewed. Wyatte then filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against the minister’s decision. An investigation by the office of the Ombudsman concluded that there was no evidence of impropriety by the minister in the handling of the case, Giterson stated.
In July, Wyatte reportedly was “once again” informed that his non-compliance in the removing of what was now three concrete structures was a violation of the law.

In reaction, Wyatte again challenged the ministry’s decision and asked the Court to intervene on his behalf. On July 24 the case was presented and on August 17 the verdict was given in which it was stated that VROMI was within its legal right to have the structures removed.

After the ruling, Wyatte requested and was granted another meeting with Minister Giterson which took place on Wednesday, September 5. At that meeting, new information and documents were presented by Wyatte on the proposed uses of the structures and how they fit into his ongoing agricultural research and development. Minister Giterson granted Wyatte a few extra days, until Friday, September 7, to present additional documents, VROMI said.

Wyatte feared his project would be demolished Thursday, September 6, on the first anniversary of hurricane Irma.

After a recent visit to Spaceless Garden, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Stuart Johnson said that while he does not have responsibility for the VROMI Ministry, which deals with land, he would reach out to his colleague minister to see what, if anything, can be done to save the garden.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sport Wycliffe Smith also visited the garden and said afterwards that there must be some way to work this matter out positively.
“I will try my best to see how I may be able to approach and have a positive conversation with my colleague Minister Giterson to express the importance of your project with hopes that it can be positively resolved,” Minister Smith told Wyatte.

Wyatte said last week he would be trying to establish communication with Minister Giterson to sit and discuss possibilities on moving forward with the project.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/80439-vromi-has-no-intention-stopping-spaceless-garden