No support for higher court

A suggestion that the planned courts building be built three storeys high has received little support from the Central Planning Authority board.

In an informal meeting with the Planning Department recently, the building designer – the Burns Conolly Group – inquired if there could be a zoning variance in height to allow for a third storey on the planned new court.

‘We don’t have an application in [to Planning],’ said Mr. Conolly. ‘We never had an application in. [The meeting] was more of an off-the-record discussion to see what Planning would agree to.

‘It’s more efficient for us to build a three-storey building than a two storey building, and we were asking them what they thought.’

The Planning Department took the matter to the CPA board, which discussed the matter two weeks ago, Chairman Dalkeith Bothwell said Monday.

‘Our main concern was the suitability of the site with regard to the proposed height of the building,’ Mr. Bothwell said.

The new courts building is planned for construction on Lyndhurst Avenue off Crewe Road, near Jose’s Esso. The area is zoned medium density residential. Mr. Bothwell said the zoning calls for a maximum height of a building in that zone to be 33 feet, and the proposed building would have been a little higher than 50 feet high.

Mr. Bothwell agreed with Mr. Conolly as to the nature of the inquiry.

‘Nobody came in [to the CPA meeting]. There was no formal application. They were just testing the waters to get the CPA’s response.’

The proposed building would be higher than most other three-storey buildings because its rooms require higher ceilings, Mr. Bothwell said he was told.

‘Eight to 10-foot ceilings won’t suffice for a courts building.’

Mr. Conolly said the additional storey does not mean that the courts project would be built with more floor area than is already planned, which is more than 40,000 square feet. He explained that constructing the building higher – but with a smaller area on each floor – would make the building less expensive.

‘Vertical circulation is more efficient,’ he said, noting that a longer two-storey building with larger floor areas would require more staircases, more fire staircases and another elevator shaft.

Mr. Conolly also said the vertical alignment was more efficient and secure for the movement of prisoners through the court.

‘They need to be delivered into in their own closed-circulation system,’ he said.

In addition, raising the building on a smaller floor plan reduces the exterior surface, the length of water pipes and the length of air conditioning conduits, all of which help cut down costs, Mr. Conolly said.

Although it would not be necessarily germane to the CPA, Mr. Bothwell said a couple of other points were discussed about the courts project.

‘There was some concern about its proximity to the airport,’ Mr. Bothwell said, adding that the noise of landing and departing jets was brought up.

Mr. Conolly said the proposed courts project falls outside the airport safety cone, even if it were three storeys. Insulation will be used to address the noise problem.

‘There are acoustic experts that can easily make the building soundproof,’ he said.

Mr. Conolly said the area of the courts building was suitable for the project.

‘We can meet the planning regulations,’ he said. ‘It’s in a commercial area that already has a gas station, a rum cake factory and offices. It’s an area of high [road] access to the Lindford Pierson Highway.

‘And it’s in an area that government already owns the land so it doesn’t have to go out and buy a piece of property.’

Mr. Conolly said the courts project will still work as a two-storey building.

‘We wanted to see if Planning would go for a three-storey building. They didn’t, so we’re proceeding with the two-storey version.’

The CPA also discussed the issue that moving the court out of central George Town will require attorneys to ‘commute’ to court, Mr. Bothwell said.

Mr. Conolly pointed out that where the court building is now, there is no parking and there will be ample parking at the new facility.

A committee was formed several years ago to explore the location of the new building and it chose the Agnes Way location.

Another possible option was Camana Bay, which has actively sought a civic building in their development.

Dart Management Ltd. Managing Director Mark VanDevelde said there had been an interest to build the Grand Court in Camana Bay several years ago.

‘We were very open to providing significant assistance that would have included the land and some elements of financial support,’ he said.

However, it was later decided that Grand Court was to remain in central George Town and other courts would be moved to the new building.