Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment & Infrastructure (VROMI) Miklos Giterson would like to inform the public on the issues surrounding the Spaceless Gardens project and insinuations that the Ministry is seeking to stop the development of a planned agricultural and research center. “The point of contention centers 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 Mr. Denecio 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 Mr. Wyatte citing complaints received about the land use and outstanding rental payments. During that time, requests from Mr. 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.
After the passing of hurricane Irma in September 2017 which destroyed the wooden structure previously built on the property Mr. 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 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.
In early April 2018, Mr. Wyatte met with Minister Giterson to request a renewal of the rental agreement. In that meeting Minister Giterson offered Mr. Wyatte an alternative location from which to operate his project to which Mr. Wyatt refused. As a follow-up to the meeting, in a letter dated April 23rd, the Minister informed Mr. 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 Mr. Wyatte’s appeal until the matter could be fully reviewed. Mr. Wyatte 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.
In July, Mr. Wyatte 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, Mr. Wyatte again challenged the Ministry’s decision and asked the Court to intervene on his behalf. On July 24th the case was presented and on August 17th the verdict was given that VROMI was within their legal right to have the structures removed.
After the ruling, Mr. Wyatte requested and was granted another meeting with Minister Giterson which took place on Wednesday, September 5th. At that meeting in his appeal, new information and documents were presented by Mr. Wyatte on the proposed uses of the structures and how they fit into his ongoing agricultural research and development. Minister Giterson granted Mr. Wyatte a few extra days, until Friday September 7th, to present additional documents.
“This Ministry has no intentions of stopping the Spaceless Gardens project or destroying the grounds.” Minister Giterson explains. “It has always been, and still is, our intention to work with Mr. Wyatte to find the best solution as long as it is in within the parameters of the law.”