Lease confusion lands NIA in court

The disputed property in Cade's Bay
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By Monique Washington

A government lease that was granted to a businessman over three decades ago has landed the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation, the Minister of Agriculture and Lands in the Nevis Island Administration in court.

Last week, March 5, His Lordship Justice Ermin Moise granted Zephaniah Liburd a stay of 14 days to prevent an investor from taking over the contested property while Liburd preparess his court case.

According to the facts of the case, in 1982 Liburd was granted a 35-year lease of the property. This lease was executed between the applicant and then Governor General Sir Clement Arrindel. Although executed in 1982 the lease acknowledges that the 35 year period would run from the date of the applicant’s occupation which commenced in 1981. As per the lease agreement, the property was to be used for the purpose of operating a boat yard. The lease also dictates that no permanent structures were to be constructed without permission from the government.

Liburd however claimed that he as subsequently granted permission to construct a beach bar, restaurant, boat shop, bathroom facilities and three villas on the property. He obtained loans from the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis as well as the Nevis Cooperative Credit Union  to develop the property. He claims to have also used funds from his own savings.

In 1998, the Liburd wrote to the NHLD requesting that the property be sold to him at a rate of $2 per square foot.

In 2015, less than one year prior to the expiration of the lease. He said in a letter that the investments which he has made in the property during the subsistence of the lease. He also claimed to have attached a business proposal for the future use of the property and requests an audience for discussion on the “nature of a new lease.” He states that even prior to this letter he was given assurances regarding the property.

In 2018 Liburd instructed his son to clean the property. The second day of clean up he was asked by a government official to vacate the property. Demolishing then began by the government and Liburd’s boat shop, bar, restaurant and toilet facilities were removed.

He was subsequently informed that his lease was determined and that a decision was taken not to have the lease renewed due to his delinquency. He states that he received no notice of this decision, neither was he informed beforehand that the buildings he had constructed on the property would be demolished. He later became aware that the property would be leased to other investors.

Last year, during one of the Premiers’ monthly press conference Hon Mark Brantley said  the property will be leased for 30 years to an unnamed investor for tourism purposes.

Liburd made an application to the court to stay the new investor’s project and that was granted.

In his decision, Moise granted Liburd to file his claim for judicial review within 14 days from the date of this order with the first hearing of the claim for May 14.

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