Residents, armed with placards, demonstrate in the vicinity of an ongoing development in Greenwood that has blocked a drain leading out of the community. - Shamir Brown photo

Shamir Brown

Mounting tension in the Greenwood community over a blocked drain seem headed for a heated showdown in court, as the Greenwood Citizens’ Association, supported by Councillor for the Rose Hall Division, Anthony Murray, is adamant that property owner, Robert Stephens, has disregarded the law in carrying out his building projects, which are reportedly severely affecting sections of the community.

The drain in question was listed as a particularly important one, according to President of the Citizens’ Association, Madge Neil-Burnett, who also expressed that the situation is an untenable one which is seriously inconveniencing residents. “This is an important drain that leads excess water out of the community to the sea, which is now being blocked due to ongoing work. We cannot accept that because when we have rainfall, the water backs up and people cannot get into their homes,” Neil-Burnett said.

Roadways such as this one are now a common feature in the community, allegedly as a result of the blocked drain.

The sentiments expressed by President Neil-Burnett were further echoed on Wednesday when residents, armed with placards, led a peaceful protest which took place on a section of the North Coast Highway, ending at the gates of the St. James Municipal Corporation, demanding urgent attention to the issue. The residents contend that if matters surrounding the drain are not dealt with swiftly, the existing problems could worsen.

Businessmen Antony Rogers, who operates a car sales business in the area, and Trevor Burnett Jr., of the Greenwood Plaza, both expressed that their businesses have suffered as a result. “I’ve been really impacted by the dumping and the blockage of the drain, because when it rains, I can’t get into my property,” shared Rogers, who added that his clients are affected by this as well. For Burnett Jr., activities in the Tile Gallery department of the Greenwood Plaza have been severely impeded, as customers find it difficult to access the showroom. “The drain is blocked and the landowner has decided that he’s untouchable and above the law, and we would like to have the situation addressed,” Burnett said.

FIGHTING WORDS

Property owner Robert Stephens, when contacted, however, related that things are being blown way out of context, and he is surprised at the actions being taken, to include comments from Councillor for the Rose Hall Division, Anthony Murray. According to Murray, “Based on consultations, the matter will be going to the courts to ensure that the proper remedy is done. I think the persons who are doing it have no regard for the authorities and agencies, and so this action is necessary.” As well as denying that he has been in receipt of the mentioned notices, Stephens believes that the actions being taken against him stem from a grudge for him by another business person.

“Before starting the work, I met with the residents of the community and indicated my plans, so they were well aware,” Stephens explained. When the matter of the drain was brought up, according to Stephens, a section of the land was offered to the residents to work to build a culvert, but the offer was not taken up. He also mentioned that the drain in question was dug through his property illegally.

Stephens also disclosed that the protest did not reflect the true feelings of the Greenwood residents. He believes that it all being orchestrated by one person, who is upset about how the water is channeled, that person, Stephens added, was also responsible for diverting water onto his property. Despite those issues, Stephens revealed that he is trying to build a culvert to try and assist with the situation. “I am trying to channel the water through a new culvert that I am building, but they don’t want that. They want me to dig back through my land, to sacrifice my land and dig a canal through it,” he remarked.

Stephens insists that what he is doing is within the boundaries of the law, and he challenges anyone to prove otherwise.