Developer embroiled in row with school

February 22, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 18 – Developers of Metro Villas estate, a new gated community with 34 housing units in Buru Buru risk incurring losses running into millions of shillings due to a protracted battle with a nearby school over an access road.

The chairman of the development committee Dr Kanyenje Gakombe says unless the government and its agencies honour documents which approved the construction of the estate, they may not be able to repay a loan they acquired to put up the estate because owners of individual houses have not been issued with title deeds.

Dr Gakombe said they used a title deed for a five acre land where the estate and Metropolitan Hospital stands to secure a loan of Sh140 million and have so far repaid Sh80 million.

"Now our tittles are not moving, so we will end up defaulting on the loan because we have one title for the five acres of land. Even the hospital where we are sitting now (next to the housing estate on Rabai Road), basically will be a risk," he said in an interview.

The developer is now facing problems after documents approving the access road, sewer line and feeder roads within the estate were contested, leading to a row with the school.

And just like many developers who have acquired approval from relevant government agencies to bring up developments, only to be told they are null and void, Dr Gakombe said he is increasingly worried because it sets a negative precedent to prospective developers.

"It is time the government learnt to respect its documents.  We have documents from all the agencies and our plan was approved, but now the agencies which issued us with the approvals are no longer standing with us," he protested.

The management of Buru Buru Girls high school argues that they have exclusive rights to an access road where the estate main entrance is located while the estate developers maintain that the approval to use the road was approved by all the relevant authorities.

For instance, a letter from the City Council of Nairobi dated September 21, 2009 and signed by Eng S.K Mburu for the Town Clerk states that: "After doing the necessary amendments to your drawings, we find that they are now acceptable."

Another letter from the Ministry of Lands dated September 26, 2006 from the Director of Physical Planning states that: "Kindly note that this office has no planning objection."

The letter is copied to the Director of City Planning and Architecture.

The Director of City Planning effectively wrote to the developers in a letter dated February 4, 2008 saying "Your plan Reg No EL 316 for the proposed Domestic Building Maisonette to be erected on LR No 76/895/4 is hereby approved pursuant with the provisions of the above mentioned bylaws."

"Before the bank gave us the loan, they looked at all the approvals… they found that they were in order. Only after confirming everything was in order did they disburse the money, thus this raises a fundamental issue about what happens because developers are being opened to risks when approvals are cancelled," Dr Gakombe said.

No official at the school was available to comment about the matter as they were said to be away for half term which started on Thursday.

But Education Permanent Secretary James ole Kiyiapi said he had toured the site and assessed the situation which he said needs intervention from various government agencies.

"I was invited to see the situation on the ground. They have claimed that the estate is a security threat to the girl child and I am now taking up the matter with my other counterparts in other ministries so as to get another access road for the estate."

In opposing the estates\’ use of the access road leading to the school, its management argues that the road was for their exclusive use and was not designed for private use. They also argue that any other use other than for school purposes would expose girls in the school to risks because the estate gate is erected 50 meters away.

But even as the school raised the argument, it did not have a title deed to prove ownership of the road in contention until the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) Director Patrick Lumumba wrote to Lands Minister James Orengo asking for a "speedy issuance of a title deed to the school."

"We write to request you to facilitate the speedy issuance of a title deed over Nairobi/Block 76/581 to Buru Buru Girls High School so as to bring this issue to a closure," Prof Lumumba said in a letter dated February 14, 2011 that is also copied to Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia asking him to "kindly but urgently issue the permit authorising Buru Buru Girls High School to erect a barrier on its land."

Soon after this correspondence was made, the school management has been blocking the road by erecting barriers just after the estate gate, blocking its access by residents sparking a major confrontation.

Town Clerk Philip Kisia is of the opinion that "There was a mistake at the Ministry of Lands when the school was acquiring their title deed, just recently.  I have communicated to Orengo and Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the situation is being rectified as the road in contention is a public road."

While the school management argues that the estate developers should relocate the main gate, Dr Gakombe says this has many implications and means some of the houses have to be brought down including re-designing the sewer system which is likely to cost nothing less than Sh70 million.

In one of the correspondences seen by Capital News, the council had earlier proposed that since the road in contention is 50 meters wide, the school and the estate should subdivide it into two.

Dr Gakombe said they had agreed to fund the construction of the school\’s road at a cost of Sh2 million but the school insisted on exclusive use of the existing one.

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