Wednesday 27th April, 2005

 

Woodbrook homeowners complain of threats

‘Sell and get out’

 
 
 
 
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Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis (second from left), and Permanent Secretary Joseph Howard (from left), Port-of-Spain Mayor Murchison Brown and acting Town and Country Planning director Sheryl-Anne Haynes listen to contributions from city stakeholders during yesterday’s breakfast meeting.

Photo: Brian Ng Fatt

BY JUHEL BROWNE

Woodbrook homeowners are receiving threats demanding they sell their homes so business interests can take their place, says resident Lynette Dolly.

She said the threats had been made by “some real estate agents and some business people who are trying to speculate.”

Dolly, a member of the Woodbrook Residents Committee, made the allegations yesterday.

She was interviewed by telephone from her Woodbrook home which she intends to keep even though properties in the area are now being sold for at least $1 million.

Real estate prices in Woodbrook and surrounding areas have skyrocketed in the past decade as commercial activity has taken over the once quiet residential area.

But Association of Real Estate Agents executive secretary Mary Jardine said in a separate interview she was unaware that any of Area’s 100 members are using strong-arm tactics in their dealings with buyers and sellers.

“The Association of Real Estate Agents is not aware of any such approaches,” she said.

“That is not something that the Association of Real Estate Agents would condone.”

Dolly first brought up the issue yesterday morning at a Planning and Development Ministry and the Town & Country Planning Division breakfast meeting on Port-of-Spain’s development, held at the Crowne Plaza hotel.

In attendance were Planning and Development Minister Camille-Robinson Regis, Port-of-Spain mayor Murchison Brown and acting Town and Country Planning Division director Sheryl Anne Haynes.

“Policy guidelines have been laid for where commercial leases should be undertaken,” Dolly said.

“However, these are being flouted left right and centre and apparently the Port-of-Spain Corporation and the Town and Country (Planning) are unable to do anything about it.

“So much so that bold approaches are being made to the residents of Woodbrook, Newtown, St James and St Clair to sell and get out.

“And residents are being bombarded with letters in their mail boxes, phone calls and even veiled threats.

“Real estate agencies are being requested to approach the elderly and vulnerable in the area to sell.

“And when they succeed with them then they’ll make life very difficult for those of us who remain but we have no intentions of going anywhere because the city needs to have people living in it,” she said.

During the breakfast meeting, Brown said the relationship between residential and commercial activities in Port-of-Spain must be urgently addressed.

“The city is fast losing its residential population as a result of commercial activity overrunning residential areas,” Brown said.

“This is very much prevalent in Woodbrook and is a great source of concern to the burgesses there.”

Contacted yesterday, Jardine said the committee wrote Area “a few months ago” concerning the guidelines for the development of property in Woodbrook for commercial use but did not mention any alleged strong-arm real estate tactics.

Furthermore, Jardine said there were about 200 real estate agents who were not members of the association.

“I cannot speak for them,” she said.

“The association has no jurisdiction over people who are not members of the organisation.”

She also said the real estate industry was not legislated and did not answer to a regulatory body but hoped that proposed legalisation would establish Area as such an authority.

Jardine said Area would investigate any wrongdoing once proof was provided.

What plagues residents

WRC member Lynette Dolly complained that the lack of enforcement of the guidelines for residential and commercial activity has resulted in the following:

Casinos and massage parlours in the area.

Houses being used for hazardous products.

An increase in restaurants and unsanitary conditions leading to a proliferation of rats and roaches.

Traffic congestion and illegal parking

Increased illegal street vending, vagrancy, prostitution and drugs.

 

 

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