How can we stop constructions that bothers us
"No blockbuilding in Chisinau was without scandal. But everything has gone all the way, "says an official from the City Hall with resignation. Massive blocks appear in all corners of the capital - a sign that the city grows and grows. However, the emergence of blocks is not always linked to optimistic demographic forecasts, and many of the constructions violate elementary rules and rules. For example, access to natural light, social infrastructure such as kindergartens, polyclinics and other public services is restricted. Moreover, many of the buildings do not fit into a general vision of both functional and aesthetic development, and disturb the inhabitants.
Officials blame former advisers who voted for land issues; and the counselors blame the lack of vision and will of the officials. Responsibility also goes to investors who do not care about the social function of a residential building, but only profit and architects - who do what the client says.
After all, most buildings have set authorizations and confirmations from the authorities, respectively, if residents claim certain rights in the court, as a rule, the investor wins.
Citizens indignate, but without constant and coordinated action. However, they are inhabitants who start the seeming battle with windmills. From their experience, we identify a few steps to stop at least temporarily some constructions and complete with some recommendations for other angry citizens. As one activist said: "If at least 5% of the inhabitants were involved, many of the construction would be no more".
"IN A DAY A FANCE WAS BUILT"
This is how most of the conflicts surrounding the building of blocks that are increasingly disturbing the inhabitants begin. At first there is a fence, then the builders come, a foundation is laid and a block is put into operation. Even if legislation provides for more rules to be followed, including population consultation, they are rarely followed. I've been looking for activists who, in the wake of the fence, took their fate into their hands. Just as David, a poor shepherd son, dared to throw a stone and kill giant Goliath - so we identified a few citizens who dared to start fighting for their rights in a tortured system where everyone blames the others. Each of them has different successes and activities. However, we identified three important elements characteristic of any civic action against construction: the unity of the inhabitants, hiring a lawyer and contacting all local elected representatives.
1. Contacting the authorities: Alba-Iulia Street 30
On 30 Alba Iulia street, at the end of trolleybus 22, a nine-storey building was planned. As in many cases, there is authorization. Even though the new block limits the sunlight and the access of the inhabitants, the neighbors have not been very involved in stopping the construction. Vadim Vieru, a resident of the block and a lawyer, during electoral debates during the 2015 electoral campaign, asked the future mayor, Dorin Chirtoaca, to find out what it is with that block. As a result, the newly-elected mayor withdrew the building permit, initiated a service investigation against the CMC secretary and asked the construction company to stop the works. Things that did not happen right away. Respectively, the yard was blocked by three old trolleybuses installed at Chirtoaca's initiative. For two years, nobody built anything. However, the company won the right to build the Supreme Court of Justice, and the local authorities shrugged and said they had nothing to do. Today, the three trolleybuses are a block. "It is a well-established scheme. If people were making a noise, going to court, going in the legal way referring to neighborhood standards, urban norms, SNIPs 2, neighborhood rights, neighbors' permission, construction could be stopped, Vadim Vieru said.
However, this case shows that by simply contacting the mayor they managed to stop construction for two years.
2. Jurists and Local Elected: Andrei Doga 30/2
In the winter of 2016, a protective fence emerged around a Soviet sports stadium. "There was no obvious risk, nor did we expect. The problem is not under construction, but in place, "says Vladislav Tatarciuc, one of the inhabitants who has been involved in stopping the construction.
The townsfolk went door-to-door and collected signatures from over 200 apartments. Most have signed against the construction. Help PSRM counselors and MPs and activists from "My dear city," they held talks between tenants and representatives of the construction company, including the fence. Shortly after, the CMC stopped the construction permit.
Vladislav Tatarciuc says he initially involved 10 hours a day, including guarding the space of the construction company. Then, less and less. In the last year, he only went to court hearings. He also says that if initially 50-100 people came to the assemblies, today there are about 15-20 of them who are interested. Most believe the problem is resolved, but it is not.
The investor decided to meet the inhabitants and exchange on another land offered by the authorities. For two years, however, nothing has happened, except for the fact that the investor has earned the right to build in all courts. Respectively, whenever there is a risk of occurrence of the block.
Tatarciuc says that people are indifferent in Moldova. But most do not agree with the new constructions that change their lifestyle. "If there were 5% non-indifferent, any construction could be stopped," he says.
Even if for two years the residents keep the stadium once again, the lack of involvement of the authorities, leaves them vulnerable to the court's decision.
3. Jurists, elected local and community: Casa Românească, Alba-Iulia Street
There is even a successful story! Today, on the land where a commercial center, then a nine storey block, was to be built, it is a playground. On summer days, it is crowded with children in neighboring buildings. Dumitru Zvezdenco was one of the inhabitants who revolted from the very beginning and constantly discussed with the authorities. He said that the inhabitants mobilized and wrote to the City Hall as soon as the fence appeared. So they found out that the land's destination had changed and followed a nine-storey block.
Help with an unpaid lawyer, constantly communicate with local public authorities, and have had three meetings with them. As a result, the mayor canceled the building permit. The inhabitants took out the fence and covered the pit itself created by the builders. Today, the neighbors enjoy a playground. "With a lot of work I stopped the construction. People need to be united to defend the territory. Do not be indifferent. We knew each other, that's why it was easier for us. "
By involving the majority of residents, with the help of a lawyer and the permanent contact with local public authorities, citizens have managed to stop a construction.
Cases where people defend their rights are few. There are many scandals that appear sporadically, then disappear and blocks appear instead. At the same time, we identified three cases where the inhabitants took their fate in their hands. Only one is a guaranteed success. Often, success depends on context, namely: contacts in NGOs or local government; the period of the action, for example, before the election campaign or the potential of the investor. However, when, for years, representatives of local and central government have blamed the institution for another and for 20 years, while the city suffocates from construction, residents can or must act.
WHY ARE HAOTIC BLOCKS?
When we look at the stars we know that their light has been created years ago, but only now it comes to us. This is also the case for newly created blocks: many of them are the result of decisions voted by the municipal councilors in their previous mandates, the effects we are seeing only now. At least that's what our current officials are doing. Chief Architect of Chişinău, Sergiu Borozan, said in an interview for PRIMĂRIAMEA that most of these types of constructions arose following the votes of the Municipal Council from 1998-2007. He also said that lately, in the case of construction, all norms are taken into account.
The construction issue has been previously analyzed 5 more by PRIMARYUMA, but we recall and complete some of the causes that lead to the chaos in construction:
1. Outdated legislation and regulations
a) The need for an updated Urban Planning Plan (PUG) has already been discussed for four years. The previous one, adopted in 2007, is already out of date: many of the forecasts have not come true and the targets set have not been reached.
b) There are contradictions between the General Urban Plan and the Local Urban Plan, which gives the actors involved the possibility not to fully respect the rules that would make the city's life comfortable.
2. Lack of responsible structures and operating regulations within the local public administration (LPA)
Even though building control has been sent to the LPA by the Technical Supervision Agency (former State Building Inspectorate) to the LPA, and Fault Finders have emerged, yet a new regulation is needed after which inspectors oversee the construction and a separate structure in the City Hall to supervise both legal and illegal constructions and abusive land 6. At the same time, even if the local government issues the necessary building permits, it does not have the capacity to supervise the way the works are done or whether or not the project is respected initially, moreover, it was excluded from the building reception process.
3. Corruption in the system - from the non-transparent vote in the previous Municipal Councils to deviations throughout the process, from obtaining the authorization to the reception of the buildings. Although there is little evidence or investigation to prove this. For now there is a report of the National Anti-Corruption Center on unauthorized constructions 7 which mentions the actions of the Technical Supervision Agency "that can be categorized as corrupt risks", namely: the application of the minimum sanctions, the cancellation of the contravention process by not presenting the finding agent ) and avoiding the demolition of illegal construction (these do not exclusively refer to residential blocks). Unfortunately, the institution did not respond to our request to submit updated reports on the construction of the capital, and the latest reports published on the official website are from 2014.
4. Lack of a long-term vision, resulting from the collaboration of local public authorities (both CMC and City Hall) and central, with the involvement of residents and investors.
These are just a few of the identified causes that lead to the emergence of chaotic blocks, failure to comply with technical standards and dissatisfaction with citizens. However, citizens who start a struggle against a construction, speak less of the system, authorities and legislation, but mentions more that people must be united in the face of wrongdoing, then there will be fewer.
WHAT THE CITIZEN SHOULD DO?
There is no guide how to stop construction, it is certain that in the last decades, the inhabitants of the world's cities have been forced to fight for their right to sunlight, public space and social infrastructure. Each situation requires a separate set of actions, but there are some basic steps that citizens can follow.
1. Documenting the situation. In many cases, land owners have building permits with other destinations. For example, it may be C4 - which allows the construction of shopping centers, not R6 or R7, which allows the construction of multi-storey blocks. The combination of letters and numbers that does not mean anything to ordinary people, accompanied by many other technical details and authorities' orders or decisions, are the preference for officials and investors or builders who do not plan to consult the population. That's why a citizen who juggles with these terms is already stronger. The functional zoning of the city is described in detail in the Local Urbanism Regulation 8. This information can be found by requesting information to the General Directorate of Urbanism and Land Relationship Architecture, and the Mayor may be added to the copy. According to the law on access to information, any citizen can request information and the institution concerned is obliged to provide a response within 15 working days 9.
2. Regulations, plans, decisions. Citizens need to understand which are the documents governing the land they want to protect, namely:
- The General Urban Plan 10 is the document setting out the general rules for the development and development of the territory, including the transport scheme, the network system, the protected areas, the delimitation of the central area, the functional areas, and the construction scheme comprising: alignments, height regime, control pointers, occupancy rate, and land use coefficient. As mentioned above, the 2007 PUG is already outdated, however, it does not contain technical provisions, and officials more often refer to previous SNIPs in the Soviet period.
3. Mobilizing the population.
4. Contacting all local elected representatives, ie 51 councilors and the general mayor. Local councilors are the ones who organize and ensure the functioning of the local public administration. At the same time, they can ask questions and interpellations, municipalities and municipalities, and they are obliged to respond, according to the legislation. 14. In order to avoid certain speculation, it is recommended to contact all the counselors.
5. Hiring a lawyer. Residents can identify a person with legal studies among them or persuade a lawyer to provide free services. In other cases, with small contributions from all residents, a professional is recommended to hire. He can document the case in detail and represent the case in court. There are few cases when residents hire an expert - a step that would significantly increase the chances of temporary or permanent cessation of construction.
6. Communication with the media. At each stage of the action, activists are encouraged to send press releases to the media to inform them about updates. Their contacts can be downloaded from their web pages.
7. Continuous monitoring. The struggle with authorized but uncomfortable blocks does not end with a promise by the authorities, not even with a final decision. There is always the risk of continuing the construction, either in spite of the formal suspension or permission of the court. Residents and the media must be kept informed about updates.
8. Public actions. To show investors, authorities and the media, and more apathetic neighbors, about the extent of resistance, public activities are recommended. This may be a public discussion or peaceful protest at the City Hall or in front of the yard.
Given the scale of scandal related to block building, we presented some causes of the chaotic blocks in the capital and we analyzed three cases where residents tried or failed to build. Based on interviews with them, as well as discussions with lawyers and civil servants, I recommended eight mandatory steps for citizens who want to protect the natural light in the apartments, free access to the block, green spaces, playgrounds or the view.
Rome was not built one day. What may mean that no block is built overnight, but more importantly, fighting the system takes time and effort.
Author: Vlada Ciobanu
The research is part of a series of analyzes developed by PRIMĂRIAMEA within the project "Monitoring of Chisinau Municipal Council". The analyzes are based on the priorities of citizens of Chisinau municipality and will be published monthly between August 2017 and May 2018.