Published On: Fri, Oct 14th, 2022

Ombudsman closes file on Over the Bank dispute

PHILIPSBURG — The Ombudsman will not pursue further investigation of the issuance of long lease rights in the Over the Bank area. It sent a notice of termination to VROMI-Minister Egbert Doran.

In a press release, the Ombudsman points out that it is not authorized to continue with an investigation if an administrative, civil or criminal procedure is in process or if an administrative decision was made.

The government filed a petition for a regular court procedure on July 26. In January of this year, the court froze all decisions about the issuance of long lease rights in Over the Bank. The Ombudsman has now closed the file on this issue with a notice of termination. This 29-page document describes every detail of the Over the Bank controversy step by step.

In its press release, the Ombudsman repeats its earlier findings: the lack of policy has given successive ministers of VROMI discretion over the distribution of domain land among applicants.

“Not codifying the process for the allocation of domain land into an actual policy reduces the accountability, transparency and objectivity of the processes/procedures used by the Ministry/Minister of VROMI,” the press release states.

The Ombudsman started a systemic investigation in the distribution of long lease rights after it received several complaints. The investigation revealed that there is a lack of continuity when there is a change of government; this in turn affects the way long lease rights are issued.

In 2019 the Ombudsman received a complaint from a citizen who had received a draft decree for the issuance of long lease rights in 2016. After intervention from the Ombudsman, the ministry of VROMI stated that these rights could not be given because there was no infrastructure in the area to access the property.

In August 2021 VROMI-Minister Doran revealed during a press briefing plans for the development of the Over the Bank area, that steps were taken to develop the Vineyard Heights project and that 25 parcels of land would be issued with long lease contracts.

During another press briefing Minister Doran said that 300 requests for land in the Over the Bank area had been received since 2011, and that fifty applicants had been selected.

On October 20, 2021, parliament issued a motion of disapproval against Minister Doran, ordering him to present a policy within 120 days and to cease issuing long lease rights in the Over the Bank area.

The Court in First Instance forbade the government in a ruling dated on January 28, 2022, to issue land in long lease in Over the Bank until a decision about the dispute is taken in a regular court procedure.


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