French St. Martin up in arms against urban planning

POSTED: 10/14/15 3:00 PM

Marigot, Saint Martin – Representatives of all six districts on the French side will be present at a press conference in French Quarter today where they protest against the P.L.U. – the Plan Local d’Urbanisme, the government’s plan for urban planning in the districts. The district representatives also object to the public inquiry and to the “abusive and arbitrary purchase of the so-called ’50 pas.’

“All sectors of the population of Saint-Martin, with few exceptions, are negatively impacted by the P.L.U. project that you have been imposing for the last months, without having the courage to satisfactorily explain a certain number of basic inconsistent decisions about the economic future of our island,” the district representatives write in a letter to the Executive Council. “Whereas tourism is the first economic activity that is supposed to ensure the livelihood of our population, your P.L.U. has based its decisions on a hypothetic agriculture that, according to you only, is the pillar of our economy.”

Zones U4 and U5 covering the largest luxury vacation market on the island are directly threatened by the planned urbanization of these zones, the letter continues. “Decisions characterized as -agriculture– green or nature- largely concerns the more than centenary properties of Saint Martin people, who will not be allowed to build or invest on our ancestral inheritance in order to secure the well-being of our children and our families. This inheritance identifies our local reality and the economic hope of our young generations obliged to stay abroad on account of their exclusion from the development of the last thirty years.”

In short, the letter concludes, “your P.L.U. totally disregards our tourism-oriented economy, already represented by a renowned luxury tourism industry in the Lowlands. In addition, the decision to considerably increase the number of floors in villages as traditional as Marigot and Grand-Case, will disfigure the existing housing environment belonging to the native population and tarnish its touristic attraction, leaving the door open to the expropriation of our properties, to the urbanization of our two major centers of local life, and consequently to the increase of delinquency and criminality.”

The present density of the population (600+ inhabitants per square kilometer) is already the highest in the French Caribbean islands. The sewage infrastructure, almost inadequate or non-existent, presently “endangers the quality of life in many areas, and no provision for the improvement of this situation is made in you project.”

The P.L.U. reflects two distinct disturbing trends, the district representatives observe. “On the one hand, the protection of the new residential districts and the planned increase of exogenous residents, and on the other hand, the stalled growth of many native landowners whose properties are declassified as non-constructible for some, and declared green or natural areas for others, and the demolishing of the luxury tourism industry.”

Communications and exchanges are made in the various languages spoken on the island in electoral times, the letter points out. “You boast of the multicultural and multilingual nature of our society, therefore decisions as important as those made in your project should have taken into account our historical, ancestral, cultural and linguistic realities, and preserve the profitability of our luxury tourism zones.”

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