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Portmore stop order fiasco as HAJ construction unapproved

The Portmore Municipal Corporation has placed a stop order on the construction of houses at the Sandown Palms development weeks after a groundbreaking ceremony featuring Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Portmore Mayor Leon Thomas said the developers of the project, Housing Agency of Jamaica Limited (HAJ), started construction of housing units without submitting building plans to the municipal corporation for approval.

“They submitted a plan for infrastructure development, which was approved, but failed to submit a building plan. Hence the municipal council had no other option but to place a stop order on the project,” Thomas told The Gleaner Thursday.

The mayor acknowledged that since the issuance of the stop order, a building plan has been submitted and is pending approval.

HAJ Chairman Norman Brown said the agency has always complied with the law, insisting that no attempt was made to circumvent the authority of the corporation.

“We have since submitted a building plan, paid the required fees, and we are awaiting the approval, which I was assured will be done in short order,” Brown said in a Gleaner interview.

St Catherine Southern Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson, while voicing his objection to the housing development at the current location, has also questioned the cost of the units.

“This site was slated for commercial development, and I know we need houses, but against this background, I cannot support this housing development,” Jackson said.

He added: “Moreover, as I understand it, the cost for these houses is in the $22-million range and they were supposed to be middle-income houses.”

The lawmaker criticised the cost as unacceptable, arguing that the price tag exceeded sums demanded for similar-type houses currently being developed in Portmore by private interests.

Brown, however, dismissed the notion that the houses were priced out of the reach of middle-income Jamaicans, noting that developers needed to turn a reasonable profit.

Holness, who broke ground for the project in August, disclosed then that the price for the units would be determined as soon as construction began.

The gated community will comprise 142 semi-detached town houses with an average lot size of 146 square metres and six standalone units with 205 square metres of space.