Physical Planning Unit knocks down structures at Chill Spot and Aqua
September 23, 2016
Physical Planning Unit knocks down structures at Chill Spot and Aqua

Demolition squads descended on the Arnos Vale area on Wednesday morning and tore down two structures, one belonging to Chill Spot Bar & Grill and the other to Aqua Restaurant & Lounge.

The flattening of the restaurant structures is the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute between some residents of Arnos Vale who have been complaining about the noise and smoke {{more}}generated by these two establishments, the Physical Planning Unit and the proprietors of the two eating spots.

The Arnos Vale based establishments were given 14 days from September 2 to remove their outdoor structures but while Aqua seems to have moved their operation to the inside of their building and left the outside grilling station in place, Chill Spot’s proprietors appealed the decision to close the business, as according to them, there was no where to move the outside set up to.

But before Lance and Maferne Oliver, the proprietors of Chill Spot, received a response, the Physical Planning Division moved into action, and on Wednesday, a crowd gathered at the establishment to witness the demolition.

Leonet ‘Spunky’ Anderson of Aqua Restaurant & Lounge did not speak to the media at length but said that the story had already been told many times. He stressed that the demolition of the grilling station means that some 15 persons are now on the breadline.

Lance Oliver, sitting on a wall surrounded by his employees and observing what was going on, refused to comment, seemingly dejected. However, a number of his workers voiced their opinion about what had happened.

One woman said that she had just started working at Chill Spot a few weeks ago and now she is out of a job once again and has doubts about how she will send her son to school. Another woman said that the business is being closed and the persons responsible have no job to offer her. “This is unfair,” said another worker, “something else could have been done because now we have no job.”

Approximately 10 members of staff of the Physical Planning Unit gathered at the demolition site, among them, Physical Planning Officer Shelford Stowe.

Stowe said that he was not personally responsible for the demolition but he was only carrying out the order of the Physical Planning and Development Board, an order he and his staff agree with.

The employees of the Physical Planning Unit accused the media of reporting one side of the story although on January 29 this year, SEARCHLIGHT published an article in which residents of the area complained about how they were affected by the two businesses and another article on September 9 detailed the Physical Planning and Development Board’s reasons for refusing the Chill Spot’s application.

Some of the reasons stated were: the development violated the required setback from the secondary road and the eastern side boundary as stipulated in the Physical Planning and Development Board’s guidelines; the development was not compatible with the existing land use in the area, e.g. located directly along the western boundary wall of a church; and the development proposed significantly reduced valuable required parking spaces of the existing Rent and Drive development, as shown on the planning application, approved May 10, 2006.

“History of the matter shows that to date, despite the service of the enforcement notices and refusal of planning permission for the said operation, you continue to operate the development without planning permission and have failed or neglected to comply with the requirements as set out in the enforcement notices. Additionally the operation continues to create serious traffic, environment and social problems for residents and road users in the area,” said the September 2, 2016 letter sent from the Physical Planning and Development Board.

The letter added, “as a result of your failure to adhere to the enforcement notices, the board requires that you cease the grilling activity and restaurant and bar operation and remove the unauthorised structure at Chill Spot within (14) fourteen days from the service of the letter.”

The letter said that Chill Spot was in violation of the Town and Country Planning Act, Cap. 334 of the laws of SVG, revised Edition 2009.

“The time has expired and the Board is just enforcing…both owners were formally informed,” stressed Stowe on Wednesday.

He noted that the businesses ought to have sought planning permission before the structures were built. He said that they have been trying to get Chill Spot to formalize operations over two years now and Aqua for just over a year.

“Both parties would have shown some resistance and would have continued operation without the necessary planning permission. It came to a point where the Board had been lenient…the Board did not wake up this morning and decide to take action, there has been discussions and the parties have been given opportunity to have a hearing to justify why they didn’t seek planning permission, and based on the justification given, weren’t satisfactory and plausible, so the Board decided we have to enforce, said Stowe.

But according to the Chill Spot proprietors, most of the issues that the Board had highlighted had been dealt with by them. The grilling area which caused the smoke was moved to the roof, while a nearby piece of land was leased to be used as a parking lot. The proprietors also said the music was also being kept at a minimum.

Stowe said that the Board is stopping the operation so that the owners can be given an opportunity to formally bring the operations back on line by going through the regular procedure, making an application and saying how they are going to address the issues of concerns within the community. “They can reapply and the application will be treated fairly,” said Stowe.

Stowe said that the main complaints were the smoke, traffic issues, drainage and noise factor. He said that the area is zoned as a residential and not a commercial area although the board gave permissions to a number of business to operate in the area.

He said that General Hardware, which operates on the same spot as Aqua was given a light hardware permit but has since been operating a heavy hardware. He noted that the Board will look at ways to address the inconsistencies in the area including the noise that some persons have complained comes from a church in the area.

On Wednesday, loud singing from an early morning church service at a next door building could be heard as sounds of sledge hammers, drills and falling galvanize filled the air. (LC)