Court denies businessman direct ownership of land

POSTED: 10/18/13 3:25 PM

St. Maarten – Julian Rollocks lost a lawsuit in the Court in First Instance this week against Country Sint Maarten over the ownership of a piece of land in Lower Princess Quarter. Rollocks demanded that the court declared he obtained ownership of the land through prescription, but the court rejected the claim – and this could have dire consequences for the businessman.

Twenty-five years ago, on February 26, 1988, Rollocks obtained the right to long lease on a piece of land of 586 square meters on Illidge Road, right across from Curacao Drive. This has been the location of several small companies, right next to a business called Low Price Lumber and Hardware.

Next to this parcel is another piece of land of 1,437 square meters. According to the certificate of admeasurement this is a so-called water-parcel. In other words, this was part of the Great Salt Pond. According to court documents, Rollocks filled this water-parcel with sand before 1990 and he built a steel frame warehouse on it. It is still there: it is the home of the AKI supermarket.

During the past decades, Rollocks rented the warehouse to third parties. Based on this long history, the businessman claimed outright ownership of the land.

However, St. Maarten gave Rollocks the right of long lease to this land in a national decree dated April 12, 2012. The decree mentions literally that Rollocks had expressed his wish to obtain the long lease. But when push came to shove, Rollocks declined to accept the right to long lease.

Instead he went to court to claim outright ownership. With a reference to an article in the civil code, the court ruled that Rollocks – until the moment he submitted his claim to ownership –  had always taken it that he used the government land without title and that he wanted to obtain this title by getting a long lease contract.

“Previously Rollocks never had owner-pretentions,” the court ruled. “This means that Rollocks previously never had possession of the parcel that he filled in and on which he has built a steel frame warehouse. If Rollocks was not the possessor before he filed his claim, it is obvious that there is also no possibility to obtain ownership through prescription.”

The court thus rejected Rollocks’ claim to ownership. Information from the Cadastre office shows that the parcel was never granted by the government and there is therefore no deed.

“If there is indeed no right of long lease established on this parcel, its full ownership belongs to Country St. Maarten. The country is also the owner of all buildings on this land. The Country St. Maarten is as the full owner the only one that has authority over this parcel. This means that the country is the only party authorized to perform legal actions related to this parcel.”

Julian Rollocks said in a reaction that his request to the court was based on a precedent with a piece of filled-in land in Fort Willem. In that case, the person who had occupied the land for 20-odd years requested direct ownership and obtained it. Right now, Rollocks said, his notary is completing the paperwork for establishing the right to long lease on the land. His lawyer is contemplating an appeal against the court decision.

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Comments (3)

 

  1. Wim van Sambeek says:

    Dear editor, If I understand the article correctly, for a large number of years government land has been used without a title and without any compensation to the government: no rent or long lease fee has been paid. The occupant without any doubt has been able to make tremendous savings.

    Government is entitled to a reasonable compensation for the use of its property which can go directly into the coffers of the Hon. Minister of Finance. If such payment is not demanded, the committee that has to investigate government integrity will have a field day. Why on earth give the long lease of a very valuable parcel to an illegal occupant who is not even willing to pay back its savings over the years? Doesn’t it seem to be more reasonable to provide the long lease to another St. Maartener who has been on the waiting list for a large number of years? Or plainly sell it to the highest bidder in order to support Minister Hassink?

    I do realize that there is still no policy on the issuance of long lease, but to just give it away under the circumstances that were provided in the article, does not seem right in this era of time.

  2. William 47 says:

    How can you get a building permit for a building on land that don’t own or have leased? Or can some people just do as they please.
    Obvious: Some of us are more equal than others.

  3. Sandi says:

    Mr. Rollocks is always walking around crying the blues. He uses his radio program to uplift and educate, yet his petition in court does not hold any weight and to think that he may have been in government when he decided to hold a piece of land hostage for so many years without the proper rights and documentation to do so.
    The article mentioned that in 1988 he got a piece of land in long lease, but that was not enough, he still needed to take more for himself. It’s a real shame.