MARGAO: Villagers of Betalbatim are up in arms against a hotel project that is clandestinely coming up in the midst of residential area where the proponents initially sought conversion to residential area and are now seeking to further change the land use for commercial purpose.
Over 400 villagers presented a memorandum to Collector South on 14th March 2019 asking him to restrict or deny the conversion of properties surveyed under Nos. 117/13 and 117/13-A from residential to commercial purpose.
Both the properties admeasure 2,350 sq mts each and apparently belong to the same family members who have obviously divided the two properties to get maximum built up area. On February 17, 2016 the Collector had converted the whole area to residential following an application made by Sarvesh Rivonkar of Edcon real Estate Developers as attorney for the land owners namely Deric Rebelo, Oscar Filipe Pinto Rebelo, Kevin Pinto Rebelo and Ashley Pinto Rebelo.
However the conversion sanad clearly stated that the applicants would have to seek Forest Department permission to cut any trees and also stipulated that a conversion sanad “for commercial use” will have to be obtained before commencement of any development or construction.
The proponents paid the conversion fee amounting to Rs 4.70 lakh and also reportedly paid the infrastructure tax even without getting the land converted for commercial use as stipulated in the sanad issued while converting to residential purpose.
The project proponents submitted an application for construction licenses of two projects of 58 rooms in the two plots and the application was submitted on 26th November 2018 and the panchayat at its meeting on November 28, 2018 decided to conduct a site inspection and accordingly issue a license for the project.
However, as some panchayat members opposed to the project arrived late for the panchayat meeting where this decision was taken they raised a ruckus and informed the villagers about it and the matter was heatedly discussed at the gram sabha on January 27.
At the gram sabha local panchayat member Leticia Miranda said she was not even consulted over the matter as she as absent for the panchayat meeting and said she was against it. Another panchayat member Judas Rebello also objected to it. However, deputy sarpanch Anthony alias Minoo Fernandes and panchayat member Santana Fernandes said if the paper work was alright they could not withhold the license.
Notwithstanding the people’s objection, the panchayat in February issued a construction license to construct 58 rooms along with a swimming pool in the two plots. However, the construction license was issued even though the proponents had not converted their land from residential to commercial purpose.
In fact this is a problem faced by many panchayats wherein people apply for construction license on residential land and later on start using that structure for commercial purpose by merely paying the higher trade tax for commercial premises instead of the cheaper house tax.
Irked by this circumventing of law, the villagers have now approached the collector before whom the application for changing the land use from residential to commercial is currently pending. The villagers in their memorandum have pointed out that this conversion would convert the Betalbatim village into Calangute or Candolim of Salcete and also that it would put tremendous stress on the power, electricity and water supply besides creating a mess on the roads due to increased traffic.