Zoning process to be continued

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The Minister of VROMI, the Honorable Angel Meyers announces the continuation of the process to establish development (zoning) plans.  Up to now, three draft zoning plans were officially placed on public review, pursuant to a public hearing. These pertain to the areas: Simpson Bay, Cul de Sac and Cay Hill – Little Bay. The Ministry of VROMI will continue with the public hearings and public reviews for the other ten draft zoning plans in a phased manner, starting with four areas: Dutch Quarter, Middle Region, Cole Bay and Cay Bay – Billy Folly. Two prior rounds of town hall meetings facilitated the preparation of these draft zoning plans.

Minister Meyers explains that some delays in the process occurred, amongst other reasons, because new members to the Committee of Experts had to be appointed. The Committee of Experts is an independent Committee that advises the Minister of VROMI regarding objections that may be submitted when a draft zoning plan is placed on public review. The Committee is currently up and running and has rendered advice with respect to the objections submitted to the draft zoning plan for Simpson Bay. The Minister is awaiting the advice from the Committee regarding the objections submitted to the draft zoning plans for Cul de Sac and Cay Hill – Little Bay.

Minister Meyers considers that it is now high time to continue with the process, as there are currently very limited means in order to ensure a sustainable spatial development of Sint Maarten. The temporary provision in the zoning ordinance for planning permits expired in 2012 and a recent verdict from the Common Court of Justice confirmed that it is legally impossible to revise any existing planning permit, except through the process of a zoning plan. The lack of proper spatial planning leads to adverse effects that are difficult to reverse on an ever increasing scale. This can be seen for example in inadequately planned developments in the hillsides, in the occurrence of incompatible developments competing for space such as residential and industrial functions in close proximity, and in inadequate roads and other infrastructure.

Minister Meyers acknowledges a critical note made by the Committee of Experts, that there is a lack of an island wide strategy for spatial development to place the detailed zoning plans in a broader and more comprehensive perspective. In that regard, the preparation of a Spatial Development Strategy as an overall cohesive and sustainable plan for the spatial development of Sint Maarten will be expedited. A first draft of the Spatial Development Strategy will be presented soon for consultation. The completion of the zoning plans and the preparation of the Spatial Development Strategy are both priorities for the Ministry of VROMI indicated in the Ministry Plan 2015-2018.

The announcement for the public hearing and subsequently the public review of the subsequent draft zoning plans that are in preparation will follow soon.  The draft zoning plans, which will be presented during the hearings will consist of an elucidation, a map with common zoning or land-use designations, as well as land-use and building regulations applicable thereto. Zoning plans are intended to provide a legal framework for possible future development, to designate and/or reserve land for desired use, to prevent undesired development and to offer legal security to residents and developers about future spatial developments.

For more information about zoning plans and the zoning process persons can visit the website: www.sinmaartengov.org/government/VROMI/Pages/Zoning-Development-Plans.