The Poti Mayor’s Office has no money, so please voluntarily demolish your garage!
One of the main priorities outlined in the 2011 City of Poti budget is the construction of sport grounds in the yards surrounding multi-residential buildings. The residents of the city welcomed and supported this initiative until they learned that the plan would require the demolition of garages without any reimbursement to the owners. Apparently, the 2011 Poti Budget didn’t include funds for compensating the owners for the demolition of their garages.
The Mayor’s Office of Poti has carried out accelerated procedures for the demolition of over 3,000 illegally-built garages. However, 320 owners were ordered to take down garages that were constructed in accordance with law. The locals say that there is significant pressure from the Mayor and the members of his office to voluntarily demolish their garages, sometimes including requests for residents to fully cover the demolition costs, as well threats to sack relatives from public posts.
Representatives from Transparency International Georgia met several garage owners in Poti on the 19th of October, 2011. Based on the documentation presented by the owners, a joint application was drafted and sent to the Mayor’s address to begin negotiations and discuss the demolition of garages in accordance with the current legislation (when seizing the private property in case of Overriding Public Need, the owner must be adequately compensated by the government). Moreover, we have written an open letter to Vakhtang Lemonjava, the mayor of Poti, and called on him to thwart any further pressure and threats on the local population. We received no answer to this letter. However, within a week after sending our application, the locals who had signed the application were questioned by the local police. The citizens were told that City Hall had initiated an investigation based on doubts about the authenticity of the signatures on the decisions of the owners’ fellowship that granted private property to these residents.
Within the last few days, law enforcers have already twice visited the locals in their homes at night and asked them to testify on the spot. According to one citizen, she was psychologically pressured by a law enforcer who insisted that sooner or later, she would have to voluntarily demolish her garage.
The residents of buildings numbers 29-31 located on 9th April Avenue in Poti were often visited by City Hall representatives who tried to find inaccuracies in the ownership documents and to persuade the owners to voluntarily demolish their garages. Video footage by the local media outlet “Tavisufali Sityva” clearly shows how the head of the Administration Supervision Department of Poti City Hall, Mikheil Akobia, tries to convince the locals of the inaccuracy of their owners’ fellowship’s records. Later, Akobia refuses to answer the journalist’s questions and demands the video camera to be turned off.
More alarming is the statement heard in the recording of Poti mayor’s monthly briefing, where he admits that 270 citizens’ garages are built in full conformity with the law. Since the Poti 2011 budget doesn’t contain compensatory funds, the City Hall is trying to persuade citizens to voluntarily demolish their garages: ‘There are garages still standing but that doesn’t mean we won’t try to persuade the owners that these garages should be demolished’
We find disturbing the means which Poti City Hall is using to coerce residents into voluntarily tearing down their own property. The mayor of Poti has explained his negative response to the owners’ legitimate claims in this way: The demand of a few people to receive compensation in return for demolishing their property, of few persons should not outweigh the rights of other residents to live in a desired environment. We don’t believe that an environment where cosmetic improvements happen at the expense of the rule of law and protection of property rights is desirable for anyone.
*This study blog post is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Open Society Georgia Foundation(OSGF). The contents are solely the responsibility of Transparency International - Georgia and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government or OSGF.