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COLUMNS BY JOHN MAXWELL :
AN OFFER THEY COULDN'T REFUSE?

 

An offer they couldn’t refuse?
By John Maxwell

One took the bait
Strange but true
Not enough data
In whose interest


The ambience would be perfect, the convenience out of this world!. You could walk to work, across a
paradaisical landscape, over manicured lawns, past real live flamingoes. through an avenue of century palms, beside a water garden, an aquarium and an orchid houses.Your friends would be entertained in a park-like atmosphere, with “rolling lawns and lush tropical landscaping” with “full recreational facilities including swimming pools, jogging trails “ in the most attractive surroundings possible, a Botanical Garden.

It would have been sooo convenient, especially if you worked at one end of the property – the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hope –and lived at the other end – at the Hope Country Club. That was the prospect offered to the civil servants and others who worked at the Ministry of Agriculture, It was offered by Messrs Robert Cartade and Roosevelt Thompson, who, in 1990 to 1994, were apparently were apparently competing for the same piece of Hope Gardens land for the purpose of building houses. Cartade and Thompson didn’t describe the land as Hope Gardens, for them it was simple a parcel “adjacent” to Hope Pastures.

Cartade and Thompson both propositioned the Ministry of Agriculture (MinAg) in 1990, apparently acting in their disparate, individual interests, but a careful reading of their solicitations would reveal that for competitors, they had a strange correspondence of language. They are now, officially, and openly, partners with the Minister of Housing and Environment in a joint venture on a proposed subdivision of Hope Gardens. According to Mr Thompson, his group “would set aside 20% of the houses for sale to persons selected by your Ministry”

Mr Cartade’s pitch was even cruder: “The Ministry of Agriculture would not only benefit financially, but would also be in a position to provide a large number of houses to its management personnel and civil servants generally from a precentage (sic) of houses reserved specifically for that purpose.”


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ONE TOOK THE BAIT

In attempting to induce the Ministry to sell them the land, Thompson and Cartade both referred to the land as “adjoining Hope Pastures”, never as part of Hope Gardens . It was the sort of offer which sensible civil servants could hardly refuse. The problem for Cartade, Thompson and the Ministry of Housing was that several sensible civil servants , despite the blandishments and the severe conflict of interest, did refuse to be blinded by the prospect of upscale housing in a private park.

The Town Planning Department would have none of it. On November 7, 1990, Miss Alexander of the TPD informed the Commissioner of Lands that they could not support the further subdivision of Hope for any non-recreational use and informed him that the new Development Order would, retain the recreational zoning of the old development Order of 1966.

Mr Vincent Campbell, acting Director of the Rural Physical Planning Division of the Ministry refused ( on November 28, 1990) to sanction the development on ecological grounds and because the Zoo needed the land for expansion.

Another refusal came on On January 7, 1991, when Dr Marcel Anderson, then Principal Director of the Natural Resources Conservation Department refused to approve the scheme. The subdivision was on a seismic fault, dangerous to life and property, the area was subject to spontaneous fires because of the flinty nature of the shale, and the subdivision would interfere with the water supply for the Gardens.


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STRANGE BUT TRUE
These refusals were in answer to the importunities of the Commissioner of Lands, one James Munroe, who was impressed by the blandishments of Cartade and Thompson, and recommended that MinAg sell the land to Thompson. In addition, Munroe wrote various government departments on July 24, 1990, asking for their comments. He also informed the outgoing Minister of Agriculture, Mr Horace Clarke informing him that he was seeking approvals.

This was a little odd, since, on the same day Mr Munroe was asking for comments, he was also writing to the new Minister of Agriculture, Mr Seymour Mullings, informing him that he, Munroe, had sought “the opinions of the Town Planner, Rural Physical Planning, Water Commission and NRCD” and that “NRCD offers no objection, Rural Physical Planning also offers no objection.”

Meanwhile, somebody else was after another piece of Hope Gardens.. According to Mr Easton Douglas, then Minister of Health, unbeknownst to him, his Permanent Secretary wanted a different piece of the same estate to build a nursing school. Mr Douglas learned of this, he says, when the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of Planning, Mr Patterson, wrote refusing the proposal in his famous letter of October 1, 1991, addressed to Mr Douglas.

But this refusal, which should have been known to Roosevelt Thompson and Cartade, did not deter them. They were still after the land, “bordering on Hope Pastures” and might well have got it, were it not for the fact, as Mr Cartade has admitted, Mr Munroe had “unfortunately departed from office.”

Five years later Thompson and Cartade were still in the hunt, despite a second refusal from the Town Planner (November 29, 1996) and an objection from the Ministry of Agriculture in September 1998.


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NOT ENOUGH DATA
In between those last two objections, Mr Easton Douglas had taken to Cabinet a proposal to divest the lands adjoining Hope Pastures and received approval. I am told that the Minister is in bad odour with his colleagues on the PNP executive and the Cabinet because they feel he did not explain to them exactly what land was to be subdivided – i.e. that they were not aware that the land was part of Hope Gardens.

In all this time it was known to the MinAg and the TPD that the land was wanted for extension of the Zoo and the redevelopment of Hope Gardens. Somehow, this fact did not get across to Mr Douglas. And, just two weeks ago, Dr Conrad Douglas, the Minister’s brother and the head of ESTEC, the company which did the Environmental Impact Assessment, claimed that the TPD had given its approval, despite the fact that this “approval” (September 27, 1999) was conditional on the land “not being required by the Ministry of Agriculture for expansion of Hope Gardens and the Zoo” Since the TPD has always been well aware that the Ministry wants the land for the purposes outlined, it was a diplomatic way of saying No without rubbing their faces in it. TPD obviously thought everybody else was also so aware.


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IN WHOSE INTEREST
Despite the blandishments of Cartade and Thompson, several civil servants refused to bow to the market forces. They, like most of us, see the land as part of Hope Gardens, as does the 1966 Development Order and the proposed new Development Order of 1991.

According to a 1981 map prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, now in my possession, the land is part of Hope Gardens. According to a map prepared by the Director of Surveys and reprinted in a book called “The Botanic Gardens of Jamaica” by Professor Alan Eyre, the land is part of Hope Gardens. And the Development Order clearly marks the land as part of the Hope Gardens estate. Between them, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Director of Surveys (O.B.Rodgers) and the Emeritus professor of Geography at UWI (Eyre) and the Government Town Planner should know what Hope gardens meant and means.

Everybody except the joint venture developers seems to know what Hope gardens is. Cartade, Thompson and the Minister of Housing seem to be operating on the principle that since Hope Gardens has been assaulted and diminished by so many others government schemes, a little joint venture won’t hurt it now, especially since the private sector is the engine of “development”. On the same basis, I suppose, they would counsel a woman who had been raped to consider prostitution, since ‘she done ruin a’ready”.


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LINKS
Photo of Proposed Site (800x600) |
1966 Survey Map | Objection sent to the Minister of Housing and Development | Rebuttal of Estech's EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) | Objection made to NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority) | Common Sense: Where will the children play? | Common Sense: The battle of Hope Gardens | Common Sense: An offer they couldn't refuse | Common Sense: No mek dem tek it! | Common Sense: Hoping against Hope | Common Sense: Transparency and Hope | News: The Struggle Continues | Press Release from Birdlife of Jamaica | Memo from Mona Heights Citizens' Association | Letter from Stuart Lacy of WildLife Jamaica | Letter from Gloria Escoffery | Letter from Daphne & Peter Abrahams | Satire by 'Cher' | An Opposing Viewpoint from The Gleaner | Protest Letters | The Principals | Add your $0.02