Georgetown Mayor, Ubraj Narine, has said that there will be no move on the re-development of prime city lands in the Houston area until proper consultation is done.
This newspaper was informed of this new development during a telephone conversation with the Mayor last week.
In December 2019, the Chief Development Officer (CDP) of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), Germene Stewart, had announced that prime lands behind Houston would be re-developed for the oil and gas industry.
She even hinted that these massive plans had already begun and described it as a Georgetown Master Plan for the oil sector. The CDP also revealed that a total of 914 applications were received from businesses of which 905 were processed and 714 approved.
Since these revelations, residents from the Houston Plantation Estates/Houston Gardens have been seeking to have knowledge of these massive re-development plans.
They have written letters requesting information on what these plans are and what kind of developers or businesses would be involved.
They even questioned the transparency of the rezoning process of the lands for industrial/commercial purposes. In spite of these calls, CH&PA ignored the residents’ request for these key details.
A few months later, CH&PA moved ahead in May of 2020 to publish a gazette order stating that an area comprising of 3101 acres will be part of a special re-development scheme.
The order also outlined several residential communities that border these prime lands.
Some of the communities listed are, Houston, Agricola, Ogle, South Ruimveldt and Industry.
This Gazette order was then followed up on June 14 by a public notice published in state-owned newspaper, Chronicle.
The notice advised that public consultations will be held via telephone calls or through online Zoom platforms. It also informed that the consultations would have come to an end on June 30.
This move was found to be distasteful by residents of the bordering communities.
They voiced their concerns in a letter they penned to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CH&PA, Lelon Saul.
It was outlined in the letter that the consultation period was way too short for residents to make their inputs.
Moreover, they said, details concerning the re-development of the lands were never revealed and asked, “How can residents make their inputs in something they know nothing about?”
This letter, too, received no response.
Kaieteur News, however, made contact with the City mayor to ascertain if he might have knowledge of the massive re-development plans.
Surprisingly, the mayor, Ubraj Narine said he had no knowledge CH&PA’s plans to re-develop the area. He said that he only learnt of this move when he saw the Gazette Order in May. As result, he had his Town Clerk, Sherry Jerrick, mail a letter to CH&PA requesting a meeting. The request was accepted and the meeting was held with the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC) on July 9, last.
This publication contacted Narine again after the meeting with hopes that the public would be informed of the re-development plans. Narine, however, did not reveal these details either but opted to say that the re-development process cannot continue will until further consultations.
When asked to expound on this front, the mayor said that the consultation period was extended. He did not say until when but reasoned that it is a large area and there are other stakeholders apart from the residents that have to be consulted before moving forward.
He listed these stakeholders as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Industrial and Commercial Limited (NICIL) and M&CC. Kaieteur News pressed him a little more by asking whether the re-development plans had anything to do with oil and gas. To this, the Mayor responded that the “Gazette order does not stipulate oil and gas”.
Still seeking answers, Narine was asked, “What really was discussed at the meeting?”
In response, he said discussions surrounded the strengthening of ties between M&CC and CH&PA. He went on to mention that the meeting also addressed some concerns that were raised by a few residents of Houston Area.
Finally, the Mayor was asked why CH&PA did not inform him of their plans before. To this, he said that CH&PA justified its actions by saying that it had met with the Deputy Mayor and other members of the council back in October, but could not meet again with M&CC due to unforeseen circumstances as well as the COVID-19 pandemic that followed.
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