…Commercial establishment and the Laws of Guyana
By Zena Henry
As of late, the capital has received significant recognition for its seemingly instant jump into commercial progression; for its continuous growth in the area of business establishment and the complementing increase of business operators.
Some have sought to bundle the increase in commercial activity with economic growth, describing it as ‘good for business’. But how has this commercial explosion affected the management and smooth running of Georgetown, and more importantly, the comfort of its inhabitants?
For one thing, the Laws of Guyana have vividly stated guidelines for the maintenance of our British-designed Metropolis. The Laws have documented the city’s building by-laws under the Municipal and District Councils Act, which constitutes all manners of building codes, regulations for residential and commercial districts, restrictions and penalties among other things.
Concerns are heightening over the blatant disregard for the constitution and the cloak of wealth increase that is being used to justify what some had described as “lawless” and “disorderly” development.
One male city dweller said, “right now there is mass disorder taking place within the capital. All over the wards of Georgetown, small businesses are popping up. Many of these are in residential areas. Zoning is out of the window. All around the city, bottom-houses are being converted to all manner of businesses.” The commentator also related his wonder as to how there are policies of no businesses in housing areas, yet many businesses are now mushrooming in these said places.
The Authorities mainly concerned with this aspect of the Constitution are the Central Housing and Planning Authority, and the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown. Legally, the Central Housing and Planning Authority is responsible for the zoning and demarking of the designated areas. And according to the City Council, as far as they are aware, the regulations have not been changed.
On the other hand, the City Council, especially the office of the City Engineer and the Town Clerk, has special duties to ensure that all regulations are followed and adhered to.
According to Chapter 28:01 of the Municipal and District Councils Act, under the city by-laws, rule 77; “A person guilty of an offence against these by-laws for which no special penalty is provided, or who in any manner contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of these by-laws shall be liable to a fine of $200 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.” Additionally rule 78 says that, “The City Engineer is hereby authorized to institute and prosecute any legal proceedings in any court against any person for any breach of these by-laws”.
In the commercial development process, developers are thus ordained to acknowledge the city by-laws. Some of those with particular interest include rule 56 of the Act which says that, by-Laws 57 to 59 in addition to the other by-laws, apply to building operations executed in certain identified parts of the City and on the West by the Demerara River. No by- law “repugnant” (revolting) of by-laws 57 to 59 shall have any application in that part of the City, section two of By-law 56 says.
By-laws 57 to 59 deal specifically with railing, fences etc. in relation to lot boundaries, building finishes, material storage, entrances, carriageways etc. in the outlined city sections stated in by-law 56. Another important by-law to a developer in the city is by-law 67, which says by-laws 68 to 70, in addition to other by-laws, apply to the part of the City East of Oronoque Street. These, according to the City laws, are designated residential areas. The Laws say that in these areas there shall be no subdivision of lots, building of more than one dwelling house etc. As it relates to residential areas and commercial use, by-law 70 is especially applicable; which states that, no building to be used as a spirit shop (rum shops), or for manufacturing, trade or business purpose shall be erected or built on any lot and no such building should be used for the mentioned purpose.
The city centre is also facing its share of “confusion” and is being described as congested. Mayor Hamilton Green has noted the problematic layout of the city resulting from the ignorance and non-adherence of the by-laws. He pointed to the problem of parking, bus terminals and the building or extension of business places. For instance by-law 73 (2) says, “No building shall be placed on that portion of any closed up alleyway and the Council may at any time resume possession thereof.”
Mayor Green told Kaieteur News that the “lawless” and “unauthorized” construction, extensions etc. has caused a lot of the woes faced by the city. He pointed out that in any developing or developed society, it is familiar for city plans to be reviewed every five to 10 years.
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