State and five-star hotel tussle over prime city land

Ole Sereni hotel's extension under construction along Mombasa Road, next to the Southern by-pass, Nairobi [Elvis Ogina, Standard]
A move by the government to recover parcels of land along the Southern Bypass it says were acquired fraudulently has hit a bump after a five-star hotel got a temporary order stopping the repossession of land where it is setting up a new Sh2 billion property.

Revoked titles

The land in question, LR 209/12367, is located at the interchange of Mombasa Road and the Southern Bypass and adjacent to the main Ole Sereni hotel building. The hotel says in court papers that it acquired the land, which the government claims belongs to the public, from Swan Carriers Ltd in 2007.

It also says it acquired a parcel of land which is not contested from the Government of the United States of America in 2006.

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“The ex-parte applicant thereafter built Ole Sereni Hotel on the two suit properties. They contend that Ole Sereni is a hotel of international repute, hosting clientele from all over the world,” says order issued by Justice Mweresa Eboso of the Environment Court on February 9.

In July last year, the government revoked the titles of 136 parcels of land that it had acquired or was in the process of doing so to create space for the new road. In a gazette notice published on July 17, the state said it had listened to the affected parties and after verifying the facts, concluded that the said pieces of land belonged to the public.

Among the companies whose titles were revoked to create way for the Bypass are Castle Holdings, Laly Funishing House Ltd, Churches Denomination of Nairobi, Sumac Development and Indian Spray Painters Ltd.

Indian Spray Painters also claims ownership to LR 209/12367 where Ole Sereni is constructing a 134 bed extension of its hotel. The extension is being funded to the tune of Sh1.93 billion by Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Sh637 million generated from the hotel’s shareholders.

“In or about 2016, they received a notice from the respondent indicating that a third party, Indian Spray Painters Ltd, had lodged a complaint to the effect that the ex-parte applicant had encroached into their property LR No. 209/11909,” said the ruling.

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Selling point

Owned by Placid View Properties, the Ole Sereni is an African themed establishment overlooking the Nairobi National Park.

The park and its wildlife have been a great selling point for the establishment. It is the reason why its management is setting up a completely new hotel next to the nine-year-old one.

Construction started in 2016 and the new five star hotel is supposed to rise 13 floors into the sky. It will have 148 rooms broken down into suites, standard rooms, apartments and a presidential suite. And to boost its conferencing facilities, the hotel will have three large meeting rooms, a banquet lounge and a ballroom that can comfortably fit a dinner-style set-up of up to 500 people.

This huge investment by the hotel which is set to double the hotel’s capacity and efficiency may however be subject to controversy once the rubber meets the road.

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At stake is a decision on whose rights get precedence in such a scenario between a hotel and a road.

“The court is to be guided by the principle of proportionality and take into account the unique circumstances of the case,” said Justice Mweresa Eboso.

Ole Sereni accuses the National Lands Commision (NLC) of revoking their title to the land without subjecting them to a hearing as demands the law. It says NLC caved in to the demands of the Kenya National Highways Management Authority (KENHA) without following due process.

ole serenisouthern bypassland tusslenairobi national park