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NWC seeks plans to develop 577 acres in Norbrook

The National Water Commission (NWC) plans to subdivide hundreds of acres in the affluent community of Norbrook in St Andrew, that sit on areas contiguous to wells, springs, and informal residents.

According to the utility company, the plans will not affect the sensitive Constant Spring or its treatment plant.

To actualise the proposal, the NWC wants an engineering consultant to develop a preliminary plan, a subdivision plan, and a final development plan for the area. Interested consultants need to submit their bids by January 4, 2024.

The size of the property, at 234 hectares or 577 acres, equates to 11 times that of Heroes Circle or 82 times that of Emancipation Park. Not all the lands would be developed as some contain sensitive water assets, but Wednesday Business awaits formal responses to queries.

“The main objectives of this assignment are to prepare a comprehensive development plan for NWC’s 234-hectare property located adjacent to 58 Norbrook Drive, St Andrew, and to obtain subdivision approval from the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation,” stated the NWC in its tender document seen by Wednesday Business.

Norbrook is one the most affluent communities in Kingston and St Andrew. Its modern mansions and condominiums connect to light farming communities in the hills of Norbrook Heights. It’s home to celebrities, politicians, CEOs, goat herders and so on.

“There are squatters that are residing on sections of the property and NWC has been receiving frequent complaints from neighbours. NWC is taking steps to have them leave the property,” stated NWC.

The estimated value of the land was not disclosed in the document. But there are currently 16 acres of development land in West Norbrook Heights, with approved plans for 40 townhouses selling for US$1.5 million, according to the MLS real estate platform. That’s about US$90,000 per acre. Those lands are near the NWC property based on map searches by Wednesday Business, but the NWC property starts from the prime Norbrook circle.

That said, real estate prices can vary drastically with other development lands selling for about US$700,000 an acre in arguably less affluent areas in Kingston. Specifically, 16 acres of development land in Red Hills is selling for US$11 million, and 5.0 acres of development land in Smokey Vale holds a price tag of US$3.8 million.

The NWC property was part of the Watershed associated with the water resources for the Constant Spring Water Treatment Plant, but this has “changed” and there is now an opportunity for NWC to have it developed, stated the document.

“NWC wishes to explore development options for this property and proposes to undertake a large-scale subdivision of this property,” stated NWC.

The Commissioner of Lands holds some of NWC’s lands in trust for the purpose of future water works, as well as to facilitate the management of watersheds. “Over the years, NWC has divested some of these lands which it considered were no longer necessary to be retained,” the NWC added in the tender document.

“There is property that is adjacent to No. 58 Norbrook Drive, which is held in trust by the Commissioner of Lands on behalf of NWC, that the NWC intends to develop. This property is in the Norbrook area of St Andrew, and has a total area of 234 hectares or 577 acres,” emphasised the NWC.

This fiscal year, NWC has focused on supplying and restricting water within the context of record heat and drought conditions. Over the long term, NWC plans to embark on US$469 million in capital projects aimed at relieving drought conditions. It does not have all that cash on hand and selling and/or developing lands could serve to augment its revenue stream to finance these projects.

The major drought reduction project relates to its $303-million plan to reduce non-revenue water. NWC loses 60 to 70 per cent of the water without getting billed mainly through leaks but also theft. The NWC wants to achieve that target of slashing non-revenue water in half, over the next five years, according to its budget found in Jamaica Public Bodies, published by the Ministry of Finance.

The NWC management said last month that the utility would earn $10.6 billion in additional revenue if it were able to cut the water losses in half. That figure equates to about 20 per cent of NWC’s annual revenue. For this ensuing fiscal year, NWC expects to earn $53.2 billion or 16 per cent more than a year earlier. NWC expects to make a surplus of $3.9 billion for this fiscal year.

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