Opinion: Forgiveness

POSTED: 06/21/11 1:34 PM

In St. Maarten it is better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. All real estate developers on the island are familiar with this reality, and most of them behave accordingly. We have seen the example of the Coral Beach Club in Oyster Pond and we have seen the example of Samir Andrawos concrete box in Cay Hill. None of these projects came about with the proper building permits, and none of them became a victim of a government-owned bulldozer.

The Coral Beach Club, after a long and bitter fight in civil court, suddenly got religion and obtained the proper building permits after the fact. What was illegal for roughly seven years became legal overnight with the stroke of a pen.

The box in Cay Hill is a different story. It is still illegal, of course, but if things go Justice Minister Duncan’s way, the project will soon be government property. The box will become some sort of prison – not the fanciest and most efficient design on the planet, but at least a bunch of walls that will keep its denizens on the inside.

We’re curious to see what the original developer of this project will get out of the deal – and how the government will pay for it, but that is another topic altogether.

Now we are looking at a couple of illegal constructions on the Simpson Bay beach. They are minuscule by comparison, but their presence is devastating all the same. One is an unfinished beach bar, the other an unfinished extension for a beach bar. Both projects have one thing in common: they are on a spot where they shouldn’t be.

They are, simply put, too close to the high-water line. The island’s beach policy prohibits construction within fifty meters of that high-water line, but based on results that policy isn’t working.

Actually, it is working up to a point, because the inspection department issues building stops and even demolition orders. But in the case of the Karakter beach bar that demolition order has not resulted in the desired result. Apparently the bar owners are waiting for better times, or the inspection department has currently better things to do.

But, as the board of the Pride Foundation made clear yesterday, it is about time for the responsible minister to indicate what he really wants with that beach policy.

Maybe they’ll hear one of these days that, like the Corporate Governance Council, the beach policy is only resulting in more bureaucracy and that it is hindering the government’s work.

We always thought that policies and regulations are there for a reason – and that the point is to implement and, if necessary, enforce them. Pride has on numerous occasions indicated how many of the ponds and lagoons on the island have fallen victim over time to development. Now the beaches aren’t safe anymore either.

So what’s next? Pride will not, as its vice president Rueben Thompson indicated, take the law into its own hands, but there is no way of knowing what others with their island’s environment at heart, are willing to do if the government keeps favoring forgiveness over permission.


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