Port Royal feud


Port Royal feud

Businessman in property fight with KSAMC

Staff reporter

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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RENOVATIONS at Fisherman's Cabin restaurant on Queen's Street in Port Royal came to a halt on Sunday when workers learned that the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) had leased the already leased property to another investor.

“How much did these guys pay and how did they get the place to begin with?” was the puzzled cry of businessman Phillip Grindley, who told the Jamaica Observer that he had obtained a lease for the property from the KSAMC in October 2017.

Brandishing a copy of his lease as evidence, Grindley, along with a group of local shopkeepers and other self-employed residents, were furious as they demanded answers from the KSAMC.

“A lot of people have been waiting to be part of the development of Port Royal. This has been in the works for years for us, as the people of Port Royal, to control, for us to run, for us to employ other people in the community,” said Grindley in reference to the restaurant which has been closed for some time.

“I have had the lease for this place since 2017, and I have been waiting for the go-ahead to do what these guys are now coming to do, which is to basically renovate the place, employ persons and reopen the business,” he added. “The plan is to restore it to what is was before a top-end restaurant that the people of Port Royal can identify with as a part of the heritage that is here.”

When the Observer visited on Sunday, a partially constructed zinc fence, along with cement blocks and steel were seen at the front of the restaurant which was once shared by the Fisherman's Cooperative.

Residents said, last Friday, people unknown to them came to the restaurant instructing local fishermen to vacate the building.

“Day before yesterday, dem just appear and start throw out people. There are fishermen who stay here when they are not out at sea fishing, and they were trying to throw dem out and wi stop it,” said Grindley.

“Where these people come from to be throwing out our local people like that? It is unfair,” he added. “What we are having here is people displacement and economic displacement when you [are] taking business from the people who belong to Port Royal and putting it in the hands of people from outside,” he argued.

The businessman explained that since he obtained the lease he had not received any word from the KSAMC on the progress on his applications to start renovations on the building.

“I was trying to make an appointment with the KSAMC, trying to speak to [CEO] Robert Hill. I had my agent get in touch with the KSAMC and I thought we had an understanding, only for us to now hear that the place has been taken over by outsiders. We don't even know where these people are from, and I have been working on this for about five years,” Grindley said.

He said the outside investor, with whom he has been in touch, identified himself as Christopher Johnson, who he said is currently overseas.

However, Hill, the KSAMC's CEO, debunked Grindley's claim of having an effective lease to the property and denied that there is a new lessee to the property.

“Mr Grindley would have erred in showing a copy of the lease because it was simply a draft for review. It was never effective or put through a committee,” Hill told the Observer yesterday.

“As we have it now, the property is under no lease whatsoever. What you see happening there are our persons who we have contracted to do some renovations on the existing structure, but there is no lease in effect,” Hill reiterated.

Grindley, however, is insisting that his lease was approved.

“What I have is an acceptance and offer for a 20-year lease for the property, and I have been waiting for the go-ahead. They are changing the story now [saying] there is no lease on the property. It was a final thing that was sent for me to sign. They offered the terms, I accepted the terms and I signed it and sent it back. Significant sums have also been sent and the lease that I have, after getting the go-ahead I would have to pay $150,000 a year for the property,” said Grindley.

“We are here to call out the non-inclusion of the people of Port Royal in this cruise ship terminal, and the... KSAMC for what they have done to the Fisherman's Cabin,” he added.

Calls to Member of Parliament for the Kingston Eastern and Port Royal constituency Phillip Paulwell went unanswered.

The newly constructed Port Royal Cruise Port, constructed by The Port Authority of Jamaica, welcomed its first cruise ship, the Marella Discovery II, on January 20 this year.

The development has come with some controversy however, as reports of possible displacement of families who have built their homes on the beach swirled before the ship's arrival.

However, on January 11 Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during a visit to the historic town, dispelled the notion that residents would be permanently relocated from the community.

“There is a presumption that the Government is doing something evil, but I have come with an open mind to hear what you have to say. Nothing is going to be done without talking to you. We will not change the character of Port Royal,” Holness told the residents, indicating that proper housing solutions would be the ultimate solution.

“The challenge with Port Royal is that, because we have not paid much attention it has been settled in a disorderly manner. We are going to do some reorganisation to find the best location to relocate people,” he said.

On Sunday the residents complained that, while they welcome the development of Port Royal so far, local entrepreneurs were being shut out of the business opportunities that are expected to come with the port.

“Mi have a likkle restaurant and mi tink dem woulda come and give us some form of documentation so that we can set up wi self,” said, Beres Brown, one local cookshop operator who described himself as a born-and-raised resident of Port Royal.

“All wi want is for dem to give us the help with the paperwork,” said Brown.

Grindley interjected: “If I have certain legal documents that are in process and they are doing this to me, what are they going to be doing to people who have lesser means than I do? What are they going to be doing to the people who don't have any documentation but who are doing business?”

Other vendors also complained that they had not benefited from the first batch of tourists who visited in January.

“I wasn't able to sell anything to those tourists, not even a beer,” said one woman who operates a grocery store in Port Royal.

“The tourist dem just pass through, but dem done do all the buying already from up there (at the pier), and then when dem finish, di tourists come down here with dem belly full and barely can drink water. Then dem whisk dem off back to the cruise ship or dem send dem off to somewhere else outside the community. Di police that were here were trying to keep the tourists from interacting with the local sellers,” she charged.

One self-employed chef who operates a cookshop also said that he did not get any business from the tourists who visited.

“When I was in the town when the tourists were passing through, the majority a dem already spend off dem money before dem come here. Plus, when dem come off the ship dem already have everything up there for dem,” he said.

In the meantime, Grindley is demanding answers from the KSAMC on the status of his lease.

“There can be only one resolution, and that is for this place to be handed back to the people of Port Royal. I am not demanding it for myself. I am demanding it for us,” he said.

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