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Parliament could void waterfront lease

The lease of the City of Hamilton waterfront would be subject to parliamentary approval under new legislation reforming the municipalities.

And the position of Deputy Mayor, as well as the titles of aldermen and common councillors will be abolished, effective at the next municipal elections to be held in 2015.

The Municipalities Amendment Bill 2013, tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday, would give the Government strong powers over the Corporations of St George's and Hamilton.

It specifies that sales of land held by the municipalities and leases exceeding 21 years will have to be submitted to the Minister and approved by Parliament.

And it ends speculation about whether the controversial 262 year lease of 26 acres of waterfront property will be impacted, stating that the provision applies to all land deals and related agreements entered into since January 1 2013.

It provides for voiding the agreements if they are not submitted to the Minister within 14 days. But it does provide for compensation to be paid to people or businesses that are affected.

Michael MacLean, the principal of Allied Development Partners which holds the waterfront lease, said he was yet to study the proposals and could not offer a comment on the development yesterday.

The Corporation of Hamilton, meanwhile, said they had not had a chance to discuss the proposals, but would probably make a response to the proposed changes next week.

The bill contains a slew of good governance provisions, including a requirement that the Corporations submit a code of ethics and conduct for the Minister's review but allowing for the Minister to disregard it and substitute it for another one if he considers it inadequate.

And Government grants to the Corporations could come with strings attached — the bill provides that the Minister can direct what taxpayers' funds are to be used for and require evidence that the direction has been followed.

An infrastructure management plan to be submitted to the Minister annually will also be subject to revision by the Minister.

And Government would be allowed to temporarily assume stewardship of municipal infrastructure which falls into disrepair if it considers it in the public interest.

Effective in 2015, municipal elections will be dual tracked — one for business rate payers, and another track for residents.

A Mayor and eight councillors will constitute the corporations.

Instead of appointing a deputy, the Mayor would be required to appoint an acting mayor when absent, failing which the councillors will elect one from among themselves.

As expected, the bill provides for the return of wharfage and port dues to the Corporations.

An the Minister would have final approval over municipal ordinances as well as a requirement that all ordinances be vetted by the Attorney General.

A separate bill tabled yesterday provides for a UNESCO World Heritage Fund for St George's to be funded by a tax on gas and petroleum products landed at the oil docks in the eastern parish.

The Corporation of St George's (UNESCO World Heritage Fund and Levy) Act 2013 provides that the corporation will administer and manage the funds to maintain, develop and promote the World Heritage Site.

However, it will be subject to the oversight of the Accountant General.

City of Hamilton Waterfront.(Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 20, 2013 at 10:33 pm)

Parliament could void waterfront lease

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