THE court case involving 23 Coubaril residents and the Development Control Authority (DCA) comes up for hearing today.
The case, which came to public attention in the first quarter of this year could very well define the boundaries of government and citizens in respect of land use from residential to commercial purposes.
Of immense interest in this case are the actions of the Cabinet of Ministers and the DCA which appear to be in conflict of each other.
Residents of Coubaril expressed their disapproval of a change of use of lands at Auralie Drive, Coubaril in Castries from residential to commercial to facilitate the relocation of the offices of the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) and the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF).
Seven months ago, they were granted leave by the High Court to apply for Judicial Review of the approval that was given for the change of use.
The DCA was targeted for the change of use with court papers calling on it to produce for residents evidence of its decision (if any) arising from the government’s application for the change of use of the lands from residential to commercial.
The VOICE has learned that the DCA may be an innocent party in all of this because published in the Saint Lucia Gazette in February of last year was a notification indicating that the order to acquire the lands in dispute came from the Governor General acting on the advice of the Cabinet.
In an article published in April of this year this newspaper ran a story quoting sources close to the case who claimed that the decision to acquire the lands in Coubaril, on which is located a building, was a decision of the government which installed the offices of the SSDF and BNTF there, and not that of the DCA.
Further, a trusted source told The VOICE that the DCA never approved the application to have the SSDF offices moved to Coubaril and was in fact unaware of it.
More evidence that the DCA may be in the clear surfaced recently when reports reached The VOICE that the DCA gave the SSDF and BNTF notice to vacate the building within three months.
SSDF official, Joaquim Henry yesterday told The VOICE that he could speak on the matter, when asked to comment.
A highly placed source at the Ministry of Physical Development, Housing and Urban Renewal yesterday spoke in the affirmative when asked whether he had any knowledge of a missive from the DCA to the SSDF.
Efforts to get the DCA to speak on the matter were unsuccessful. However The VOICE was able to determine that such a letter does exists.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, sources at the SSDF said that the ground floor of the building that the SSDF occupied contained enough evidence to show that even before the SSDF moved in, the building had been used for commercial purpose.
The residents’ application for judicial review called on the DCA to produce evidence that prior to making the decision to grant to the government approval for the change of use, that the DCA caused the government to comply with the practice that would have required the government to erect a signboard measuring approximately two feet by four feet in a location that was visible to the residents of Coubaril Park, inviting them and landowners an opportunity, within a stipulated time frame, to comment on the change of use proposal for the acquired lands and building.