Years of inactivity end for Monument Council

POSTED: 02/21/12 12:22 PM

Advice will go soon to Minister Arrindell

St. Maarten – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Rhoda Arrindell will soon have an advice on her desk about the Monument Council. Department head Neville York told this newspaper yesterday that the paperwork for the advice is done. ‘”The council has been dormant for a while, but the advice will now go to the minister within a very short period,” York said.
He declined to say who the candidate-members for the council are, because this is part of the advice.
Environmentalists have been concerned about the lack of an active Monument Council which is among others charged with advising the government. When the island territory drew up a list of objects to be placed on the Monument List, owners had the option to appeal. However, such appeals could only be handled based on an advice from the Monument Council, and since it did not exist, no advice was forthcoming.
This is how that situation played out in court on November 28, 2009 when Edna Diggs and Marni Weinstock, together with the Dutch real estate development company Emilio Wilson BV attempted to obtain a planning permit for the estate.

mr. Bert Hofman, who acted as attorney for the Island Council during this court hearing, stated that the placement of the Emilio Wilson Estate on the monument list had become irrevocable. The Executive Council placed the estate on the list on July 31, 2008, and the owners appealed this decision on September 1. “Handling the appeal did unfortunately not take place within the legal term of six months for lack of the legally required advice from the Monument Council. As a consequence, the administrative appeal is considered to have been dismissed,” Hofman said. He added that the Island Council does not know whether the owners have appealed this dismissal in a timely manner in the administrative court. “That means that the designation of the Emilio Wilson Estate as a protected monument has become final.”
“We have objected to the placement on the monument list and we never heard anything about it anymore. Now I have to hear here in court that the decision has become irrevocable. That is the world upside down, it rewards the government for doing nothing,” the attorney for Diggs, Weinstock and the developer Mr. Rik Bergman said at the time. “We filed an objection, and we stand by that objection. There was no reaction because the government is incapable of appointing a Monument Council.”
The appointment of members to the Monument Council has gained renewed urgency because of the plans to develop a rainforest attraction park on the estate.

Environmentalist Rueben Thompson recalls another example that required the input from the Monument Council in 2009. In that year, the government asked for a permit to remove part of the salt pans in the Great Salt Pond to accommodate the construction of the ring road. That permit obviously also required an advice from the Monument Council.
According to Thompson this permit was then granted by default, and he now fears that something similar might happen with a planning permit for the rainforest attraction park if there is no advice from the Monument Council forthcoming.

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