Reopening of Aqua Sol Beach mere days after it was closed down by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), has come as a pyrrhic victory for the operators, Reggae Adventures Limited.
The reopening is for only 60 days, up to October 10, and the operators must pay the UDC $3.5 million in three tranches by September 15, this year.
Should Reggae Adventures, represented by Carlyle Allen and Raymond Kerr, fail to meet the deadline for any of the three payments, entitlement to remain in possession of the beach till October will be forfeited immediately. It will then revert to the UDC unconditionally.
Last week, the UDC, which owns the former Walter Fletcher Beach (renamed Aqua Sol Theme Park after it was leased) closed its gates, four months after the lease had expired in April. This action was quickly met with a legal challenge from Reggae Adventures’ lawyer.
The matter was heard in Chambers August 9, 10 and 11 by Mr. Justice Laing. Conrad George and Andre Shekkleford, instructed by Hart Muirhead Fatta, appeared for Reggae Adventures with Queen’s Counsel W. John Vassell and Johnathan Morgan, instructed by DunnCox, appearing for the UDC.
A Consent Order outlining terms agreed to by both parties was issued in the Supreme Court on Friday, stipulating that the UDC restores the property to Reggae Adventures effective that date on condition of being paid $700,000 immediately. Two other payments were scheduled, one of a million dollars not later than August 31 and the other of $1,811,830.14 to be paid on or before September 15.
Having consented to the terms arrived at, the Aqual Sol operators agreed to withdraw all claims made against the UDC and to discontinue proceedings that had been initiated in court.
The judgment also prohibits Mr Allen, directors, agents and employees “from issuing any statement or providing any information to the press, media or other public forum that are in any way related to the subject-matter” or issues raised on the claim for an injunction or the terms of the Consent Order. However, the UDC was authorised to make a public statement, agreed to by Reggae Adventures’ lawyers, advising that Aqua Sol had been reopened for business but making no reference to the temporary nature of its reopening.
That statement issued by the UDC on Monday, noted that in 2007, the Corporation entered into a 10- year lease with Reggae Adventures Limited to operate the Walter Fletcher Beach under the Aqua Sol name.
“The UDC opted not to renew the lease on its expiration on May 31, 2017, which was communicated to the lessee and a period of 60 days afforded the group to wind up operations. The 60 days expired on July 31, 2017. The UDC did not repossess the property until August 8, 2017 in order to facilitate the operations spanning the two public holidays (Emancipation Day – August 1 and Independence Day – August 6), when we are aware that a significant number of patrons visit the beach.”
In relation to an injunction sought on August 8, 2017 to continue operating the property, a Consent Order was agreed by the parties “in the interest of trying to resolve the issues without litigation” and settlement reached on August 11 allowing the claimant to remain for a further 60 days on the conditions stated.
Reacting to comments by attorney Jennifer Messado, in defence of Reggae Adventures that “this is a trend” and accusing the UDC of “acting improperly as was done with Cosmos in Negril”, the Corporation further outlined that “one year into the renewal of a 49-year lease, Cosmos advised the UDC that he was retiring and in keeping with the terms of the agreement, sought permission to assign his lease to someone of his choice to operate his interest.”
Walter Fletcher Beach is one of three beaches created by the UDC in the 1970s for public use and will be incorporated in redevelopment of the Montego bay shoreline into a major public park that also includes Closed Harbour (Dump Up) and Gun Point.
The Corporation says, “It is the intention of the UDC that the Walter Fletcher Beach will continue to operate as a public beach, but one that is in keeping with the acceptable standards of public comfort and safety.” Also, “The UDC has indicated in all the presentations that the developments are for the benefit of the people, and further that the development concept is informed by the interaction with Montegonians, who indicated what they would wish to see in any such development.”