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April 13, 2006

United Kingdom returnee: ‘The package you put forward is not far enough!’

There was no fete at P’Tani Resort on Monday evening, yet the heat emanating from inside the entertainment centre was intense – the source of the heat being the consultation on the proposed Argyle International Airport.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ update on the international airport triggered mixed feelings among the property owners. For some property owners, the news of what they stand to gain was received with joy but the same cannot be said for others.{{more}}

A group of affected homeowners, mainly returnees from the United Kingdom, made it known that while they know moving is inevitable, they want the Prime Minister to add more to the compensation package. A total of 150 property owners in the Argyle area are likely to be affected.

The meeting commenced on a somber note, with Dr. Gonsalves lamenting the death of his former Press Secretary and Personal Aide, Glenn Jackson who was instrumental in organizing the first consultation.

Giving a report on the project, the Prime Minister then addressed the progress made in the areas of Soil Testing, Topographic Surveys, the Wind Studies, the Designs, the Earth Movements, and the Acquisition and Purchasing of the Properties along with the issue of relocation.

With regard to the latter, Dr. Gonsalves said he knew this section would be of utmost interest to the property owners. He told the gathering that the general consensus among the property owners, was that Harmony Hall be chosen as the site for relocation. He noted that some 21 acres of land will be purchased from Murray Hadaway for this purpose at $5.02 per square foot. He indicated that the International Airport Development Committee (IADC) has a cheque of $1 million to make as down payment on the lands estimated at just under $5 million.

Disclosing the initiatives that have been taken to assist the Argyle property owners, the Prime Minister indicated that the lands at Harmony Hall, upon development, will be sold at concessionary prices of $7 per square foot though the lands will then be worth between $10 to $12 per square foot. For some property owners, it is the deal of a life time.

Additionally, the affected property owners will be exempted from all fees including the five per cent registration fee, whether they purchase lands for relocation at Harmony Hall or outside that area, as well as the fees for deeds. They will also receive a relocation package and be allowed to remove all fixtures from their properties.

“We’re trying to see if we can sweeten the pot there,” said Dr. Gonsalves adding, “I don’t see how much more I can do.”

For some property owners, however, the pot is not yet sweet enough.

“The package you put forward is not far enough,” said Aldon Mapp, a returnee from the UK. Another male returnee demanded that he be paid $2 million, the amount he claims his property is worth. On the other hand, a female returnee fumed and walked out of the meeting after she was told that the government will not stand the cost of replacement lands valued at much more than what the Government was paying for the Harmony Hall lands. Their demands were viewed by some people as being unreasonable.