Residents impeding process on Curepe interchange

The Ministry of Works and Transport has noted the cover story published in today’s edition of the Trinidad Guardian (09-09-18) and wishes to state the facts as they relate to this matter.

In 2011 Cabinet approved the construction of a fly over at the intersection of the Southern Main Road (SMR) and the Churchill Roosevelt Highway (CRH) along with ancillary works to facilitate the free flow of traffic on the CHR between the SMR and the Uriah Butler Highway.

On July 25, 2013, Cabinet agreed to the acquisition of an estimated 22 parcels of land required for the construction of the Curepe Interchange. The estimated parcels of land have since been updated to 37 and include properties that are residential, commercial, agricultural, state owned or privately owned. The activation of the Land Acquisition Act to acquire these parcels of land for public use is a two-step process that entails serving a Section 3 Notice of Intended Acquisition of land followed by a Section 4
Order which empowers the State to enter and take possession of the properties within 6 months of serving the Notice.

The Section 3 Notice gives the Ministry the authority to enter unto the properties, if necessary, for the purpose of carrying out preliminary works for investigative purposes. The Section 3 Notice, (Legal Notice No. 181, dated August 26th, 2013 and published on September 4th in the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette Legal Supplement Part B Vol 52, No.114 at Item No. 1745) establishes that the State followed due process in the matter. Section 4 Orders were served between August and September of 2017 to residents, and again in May 2018 after the initial time-period for taking possession of the properties by the state had lapsed.

The Ministry officially wrote the affected land owners informing them of the publication of Legal Notice #181 which gave them the authority to enter the lands and also advised that upon completion of the geo-technical investigation, they would be notified as to whether their individual property would be affected by the construction. It is critical to note that all land owners were asked to sign upon receipt of the notification. The Ministry’s records indicate that all affected land owners signed and received the correspondence.

On November 18, 2014, the Ministry wrote to affected land owners that would be directly affected by the project, indicating that their properties fell in the path of the proposed works for the highway and would require acquisition. The Ministry stated its intent then to meet with land owners with a view to initiating mutual discussions on the final purchase price for properties identified for acquisition. The Ministry invited land owners to submit claims for compensation. Claims were broken down into three categories:

 Value of structure and building
 Land value
 Social disturbance

To date, land owners in the path of the Curepe Interchange have failed to comply with the legal process and submit claims, along with valuation evidence. According to the Commissioner of Valuation Division, residents are submitting claims that are 300% higher than the official value of their properties. In fact, land owners have refused to submit their declarations to the Board of Inland Revenue in support of their claims for compensation. In addition to compensation for the land, Cabinet also approved several parcels of land located in the Caroni area for use by some of the affected residence. The residents have since viewed the approved lands and indicated their approval for use.

From 2013 to present, the State has been engaged in executing the legal process and has held numerous consultations and negotiations with stakeholders and land owners almost simultaneously ensuring that proper processes were followed. There have been multiple consultations with residents under past and present governments. It is now for the residents to submit evidence-based claims to the State for processing of compensation as required by the Land Acquisition Act. While the State remains committed to paying the residents fair compensation for their properties, residents are also duty bound to support their claims by the provision of the required evidence. It will be administrative malpractice for the state to pay exorbitant compensation to the residents without supporting evidence.

This interchange was planned and approved over a decade ago as an integral part of the East-West Corridor Transportation Plan that has been in formation since the 1970s. It will play a vital role in easing distress to our travelling public, daily congestion on our roadways and quality of life enjoyed by each and every citizen.

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