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Ollivierre – We have moved past the plan issue

Ollivierre – We have moved past the plan issue

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Two weeks after the Bequia Beach Hotel announced that the multi-million dollar hotel will be closed as a result of unsuccessful attempts to resolve land issues within the resort, Chief Surveyor Aldolphus Ollivierre is refuting the allegations made against him and has given his account of the issues at the centre of the dispute.{{more}}

In an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, March 1, Ollivierre said Bengt Mortstedt, the developer of the resort, had purchased several plots of land at Friendship, where his resort is built, but roads belonging to the state, amounting to over 36,000 sq ft, which had previously serviced each parcel, and had provided access to Friendship Bay Beach, were removed in the surveyor’s plan.

He said a plan of the land was submitted to him as Chief Surveyor.

“When the plan came to me in March 2006 for registration, I had a concern for these same reasons. I noticed that they eliminated the roads linked to the other parcels that were there. I did not register it, but drew it to the attention of the surveyor and asked for clarification. I told him the only way I would get that plan registered and sign it, is if they can prove to me that all the people around who use these roads agree for the change of this road,” Ollivierre explained. He said the road that was proposed in the new plan would take persons using it down a steep hill, as well as a longer route to get to and from the beach.

Ollivierre said he held up the plan for three months, and when the surveyor returned, he asked him to provide the proof of a letter signed by persons who had properties nearby, saying that they were in aggreement with the new plan.

Ollivierre said that he was not granted the proof that he requested, but signed off on the plan because he did not want to stall the development.

He disclosed that shortly after signing off on the plan, two persons who own land in the vicinity of Mortstedt’s property, which now amounted to over six acres, made an objection to him concerning the road.

Ollivierre said that he contacted Mortstedt and he (Mortstedt) agreed to allow the same surveyor that he had used previously to have a meeting at the site with Ollivierre, the Town Planner, the Revenue Officer from Bequia and a legal representative of the persons who owned property in the vicinity.

Ollivierre said that during that meeting, they arrived at what he considered a solution to the problem. He said the surveyor, acting on behalf of Mortstedt, agreed with the land owners to put an eight foot road alongside a concrete drain in order to have proper access to the beach.

Ollivierre said when he contacted Mortstedt via e-mail, Mortstedt said he was not in agreement with the proposal.

Nothing took place for a while, Ollivierre noted, until a lawyer representing the other land owners in the area wrote to him and asked that the plan be cancelled, because they are not in favour of removing the original public access route.

“I had no other choice, but to cancel the plan,” said Ollivierre, noting that this was done after he further investigated the matter.

Ollivierre said Mortstedt called and there was a discussion and it was agreed that they would meet to resolve the issue. He said he advised Mortstedt that he would have to put back the original roads and he agreed to this and a new plan was made.

Despite this, he said Mortstedt still desired to have a new road.

Ollivierre said several meetings took place and he proposed that Mortstedt develop an eight foot road in the resort. He said the other land and property owners disapproved of it and negotiations had to start all over again. Three meetings were held, said Ollivierre, and the Prime Minister had attended one of these.

He said Mortstedt drew up a development plan and decided to put a road through the resort. The nearby land owners agreed that they would not have a problem with this, once he allowed their guests to use the road. Ollivierre said shortly after building the road, Mortstedt placed a gate at the entrance to the road, and that created a problem.

“We are refuting claims when he said that the cancellation of the plan is a cause of unresolved land issues in the resort. That is not so, because we have gone long past that and it is the gate that he has erected is the main problem,” said Ollivierre.

Ollivierre expressed that when he took the decision to cancel the first plan, he was guided by the law.

He made reference to Section 26 of the Land Surveyor’s Act, Chapter 266, dealing with the cancellation of a surveyor’s plan, which explicitly states: “Where in the case of a document or instrument to which an authenticated plan is attached or in which reference to survey plan is made, the plan is found to be inaccurate by reason of any error or omission in the surveyor, or the plan does not confirm with the terms and conditions which have been given, the Chief Surveyor may cancel the authentication of such plan and may recall any copies which may have been issued and in every case the provision of Section 24 shall apply.

He said the law mandates that the Chief Surveyor forthwith at cancelling of the plan, notify in writing the owner the land to which the survey plan refers, the surveyor by whom the survey was executed and the Registrar.

“I went ahead and did all those,” said Ollivierre.

“I am hoping that he lets good sense prevail and removes the gate, because he has nothing to lose by putting the gate in a position that people can be satisfied with,” said Ollivierre.

Ollivierre said his office held the position that if the roads were removed, an alternative route must be found to allow the public to have access to the Friendship Bay Beach.

“That is what he doesn’t want and that’s where the problem is,” said Ollivierre.

When contacted on Wednesday evening, Louise Mitchell-Joseph, Lawyer for Mortstedt, said Mortstedt had only learned of the cancellation of the plan a long period afterwards. She, however, noted that she does not know necessarily if that is the fault of the Chief Surveyor, because he said that he had sent the letter. “For one reason or the other, it did not get to my client,” said Mitchell-Joseph. She said that Ollivierre does not seem to be party of the recent discussions held on the matter between the Prime Minister and Mortstedt.

On Mortstedt’s earlier stance of only granting a key to access the gate instead of having it open, Mitchell Joseph said: “There may have been times in the past where that was his position, but things have moved beyond that and he is now willing to leave at least one of the gates open permanently.”