Former Cabinet Minister Frank McField said Tuesday that politics played a role in a Central Planning Authority Enforcement Notice served on his mother Martha’s building at McField Square in George Town.
The two-storey, eight-unit, C & M Building was constructed in 1981 by Mrs. McField and her late husband, Charles ‘Bulla’ McField.
It was the home of Myrtle’s Restaurant for more than a decade, and other commercial enterprises, including Paul’s Electrical Supply, have been in the building for years.
Mr. McField also had his office there while he was a Member of the Legislative Assembly.
The building sustained severe roof damage during Hurricane Ivan, as well as damage to windows and drywall.
Extensive repairs, which included a stronger and larger roof with supporting cement beam structures, were carried out on the building and completed in late March.
However, on 1 June, at a meeting of the Central Planning Authority, it was resolved to send an enforcement notice in respect to the building because of ‘after-the-fact commercial additions and a change of use of building’ without the grant of planning permission.
The Resolution said the steps required in the notice were ‘remove the building’.
‘Only by the removal of the building can the land be restored to its condition before the development took place,’ the resolution stated.
The Resolution was signed and dated 15 June, 2005.
On 16 June, a Stop Notice and an Enforcement Notice were signed by Director of Planning Kenneth Ebanks with respect to the building.
The Stop Notice instructed Mrs. McField to cease all building and construction.
The Enforcement Notice instructed Mrs. McField to ‘remove the commercial additions and apply for the change of use’. The notice gave 60 days after its effective date in which to take the required steps.
The Notice was to take effect 28 days after service.
Mrs. McField said she did not understand what the problem was.
‘This is not a new building,’ she said. ‘Nothing has been added, not one bathroom.’
Mrs. McField said she put a new roof on the building after the hurricane, which was extended over the stairs on either side of the building.
‘The way it was before, if another storm came back, it would tear it down again,’ she said, noting the building had a zinc roof beforehand.
‘I wanted to make sure I had a stronger roof this time and I needed to have that supported.’
The larger and heavier roof required concrete support columns that extend beyond the building’s original walkway by the width of one cement block, she said.
‘They’re the same stairs that were always there, expect they’re covered with tiles now,’ she said.
Assistant Planning Director Ron Sanderson said the problem started when work began without the required planning permission.
He acknowledged that an application was made, however it was found to contain errors.
‘The attached plan was inaccurate in our opinion,’ he said. ‘I did not represent what was happening on the ground. We believe the (columns) are much closer to the road than shown on the plan.’
Because of the discrepancies, the application was sent back to Mrs. McField.
An administrative person working for Mrs. McField acknowledged receiving the application back.
‘It had some wrong figure, but we corrected them and sent it back to Planning the first week of July,’ she said.
Mr. Sanderson said the wording ‘remove the building’ did not mean the entire building had to be taken down.
‘It pertains to the addition in question that was illegally constructed,’ he said.
Mr. Sanderson also said that the building could still receive planning approval once a new plan is reviewed.
‘They can apply for what is called ‘after the fact permission’,’ he said.
Another issue with planning is that Mrs. McField converted two of the upstairs units to one-bedroom apartments without planning permission.
Mr. Sanderson explained that even though the building was in an area zoned ‘neighbourhood commercial’, which would allow residential dwellings on the upper floor of a multi-storey building, planning permission must still be obtained to change the use.
Mr. McField said he was sure the enforcement was political in nature.
‘We never got an enforcement notice on this when I was minister, and this was completed long before the election,’ he said. ‘Right after the election, after the building was already completed, we got the notice. Clearly, it’s political.’
Mr. McField pointed out that the basic building did not expand.
‘It’s on the same footprint as before. All that was done was to cover the stairs and support the roof to make it stronger,’ he said.
Chairman of the Central Planning Authority board AL Thompson said politics had nothing to do with the decision.
‘We did nothing on my board that was political, I can assure you of that,’ he said.
Mr. Sanderson said the enforcement was routine in nature, and that similar situations arise ‘all the time’.
‘We’ve had plenty of these cases since the hurricane,’ he said.
Mrs. McField pointed out that she even gave the government some 15 feet of the road to which her columns are now too close.
‘There wouldn’t even be a road there if it weren’t for us,’ she said.
‘I’ve tried to comply (with the Planning Department),’ she said. ‘I don’t know what they want from me.’
‘I’m not angry though, I just want them to leave me alone.
‘This isn’t Frank McField, it’s Martha McField,’ she said. ‘Don’t take (animosity toward him) out on me.’