Published On: Wed, May 10th, 2017

Developer refuses to mend pensioner’s fence

Fernett Payne 20171212 - HH

~ Serenity Estates disturbs the peace in Defiance ~

GREAT BAY – Real estate developer Smart Homes is causing a major headache to pensioner Fernett Payne who has been living peacefully on a property on Defiance Road since 1986. When the developer bought the adjacent plot of land for $470,000 on September 20 of last year, it did not take long before trouble started. The development of what has been loftily dubbed Serenity Estates had disturbed the peace on this quiet location in Defiance.

Payne, a 67-year-old pensioner who came to the island from Antigua in 1971, says that activities on the neighboring plot began in March of last year, so before Smart Homes owned it. “They came back in July to take the trees away,” she says. “They cleared up rocks and put them first at the far end of the property.”

Later however, the developer moved the rocks close to Payne’s fence. “The rocks broke my fence and they did not want to tell me who the land belongs to.” Payne says. “I told them that I did not want rocks near my fence and that they’d have to fix it.”

Payne spoke several times with a man who declined to introduce himself. “First they told me they had bought the wire to fix my fence; then they left again for a while. The workers said they’d ask the owner to remove the rocks and to fix the fence and they told me he’d said okay, I took their word for it.”

Payne speaks with Today at the top floor of her house, a place that is under renovation. She recited her story from a little notebook that contains a meticulous record of what transpired.

“They finally moved the rocks but then they threw dirt against my fence. A guy told me that he was not going to fix anything.”

In December heavy rainfall flushed a lot of dirt into Payne’s yard. The pensioner went to VROMI in an attempt to get support, but she got nowhere.

On December 12, at 8.45 in the morning, Payne noticed a surveyor from the Cadastre who was measuring her land. “He said he was sent by the owner of the land next to mine.” she says.

Payne saw someone apparently connected to the developer on January 4. Again she asked that her fence be fixed. “I am not fixing anything and there will be more of it.” was the answer she received. That’s the day when Payne noticed that the man was wearing a tee shirt that read Smart Homes.

She finally got VROMI involved and inspector Howard Villareal came round to take pictures of the situation. Payne went back several times to VROMI for an update but she never got one. Villareal did not answer his phone either anymore when she called.

Payne went to the Prosecutor’s Office, got sent to the Police Station (“they were very helpful”) and she addressed the issue with the Ombudsman.

On April 26, the Cadastre’s surveyor Franklin Chittick came again to measure Payne’s land. “He said that the owner of the land next to mine had paid him to do this.”

Later, Payne says, Robert Boekhold, a member of the Cadastre’s management team, came to take a look.

Outside she points to a piece of metal Boekhold drove into the ground to mark the border of her property. It is about two meters from the fence that surrounds her land. On it stands a container of Smart Homes. “They are on my land.” Payne says.

In spite of all her efforts to get a solution the result so far is zero: yesterday the fence was still broken, the dirt still piled up against it.

Today approached Smart Homes for a reaction, but by press time the company had not responded to our invitation for a comment.

Top photo caption: Fernett Payne in her yard with the broken fence in the background. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar.

Payne- border mark - 20171212 - HH

Photo caption: Fernett Payne indicates with her foot where the border of her property is. The contractors’ containers stand on her land. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar.

Serenity Estates

Photo caption: Billboard of Serenity Estate; Defiance Road runs to the right alongside the project site. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar.