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Greenpark residents fight developer over proposed petrol station

Dining etiquette

Superior Homes Kenya Chief Executive Officer Shiv Arora (right) with a guest during Greenpark Estate Open Day at Greenpark Estate in Athi River. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Some residents of Greenpark Estate at Athi River have opposed the construction of a petrol station by the developer, saying it is an alteration of the master plan that they signed.

The petrol station is planned next to a shopping complex that is nearing completion, but its construction is yet to start.

The gated estate was developed by Superior Homes Kenya (SHK) along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, about 35 kilometres from the city centre.

Residents of Cluster 1, the first phase that was constructed in the estate, say the petrol station sprouts right beside their houses, with a perimeter fence that separates them from the petrol station now raised.

The residents, who live near this wall, have formed a committee to articulate their grievances and lobby against the petrol station.

Green area

Marlene Wambui, a member of the committee, claimed the developer cleared trees in the area where the shopping complex now sits against the residents' wishes.

"The site on which they are constructing the shopping centre was a green area, according to the plan the homeowners bought into," she told Real Estate.

"Homeowners had invested in planting and nurturing trees. They (the developer) just destroyed trees and greenery there."

Ms Wambui said there were inadequate consultations when the developer shifted the location of the shopping complex, and complaints about the construction of the petrol station in the same area were rebuffed.

"When they decided to do the shopping centre on this site, they did not consult the homeowners because the site that had been agreed upon in 2014 is a different one within the estate."

Public participation

However, according to SHK Chief Executive, Shiv Arora told Real Estate, there was extensive public participation ahead of ground-breaking for the retail centre, and there were no complaints from the residents.

"On June 28, 2021, we sent out a letter to the residents and the board of the estate, informing them of our intention to extend the boundary wall as well as the scheduled ground-breaking of the retail centre, which was followed by three days of public participation," he said.

"Residents attended and were briefed and had a chance to give their views on the retail development. The residents were happy about it (as it) adds value to the development as a live-work-play master-planned development.

"We did not receive any objection from the residents when they received the letter or during the construction of the boundary wall and the retail centre."

Mr Arora also denied accusations that SHK was intent on damaging the green area, saying rehabilitation was due after construction.

"We consulted the residents and the board members of the Greenpark Estate Management and communicated to them all mitigation measures undertaken to ensure that the green spaces are rehabilitated after the completion of the construction," he said.

"Superior Homes transplanted trees across the estate, and donated 1,000 trees to the estate management in the form of funds.

"Superior Homes Kenya has and will continue to plant trees and create green spaces within the retail centre."

A meeting is scheduled for Saturday between the developer and the residents to thrash out the issue.

"The public forum on Saturday will be to get views from the residents, and their views will be taken into consideration," Mr Arora said.

Additional units

Greenpark Estate sits on 163 acres and has over 600 houses sold and occupied. The estate has approximately 2,000 residents.

SHK is currently constructing its final cluster of the estate.

A 2014 environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the estate indicated the developer planned to construct additional 300 units of houses comprising bungalows, maisonettes, villas, self-built plots, a shopping complex, a drive-through and a 'sundowner 'sports complex.

The 300 houses were to cost approximately Sh2.2 billion, the sports complex Sh20 million, 12 shops at the shopping centre Sh120 million, and a petrol station at Sh18.5 million.

The total cost was to be around Sh2.56 billion.

Residents, however, raised questions during public participation forums about the security of their neighbourhood as the proposed shopping mall was to share the same entry and exit with the estate.

"Every cluster of houses has its dedicated security point and the shopping mall and other facilities are separate from the houses," SHK said at the time.

"Shoppers and customers of the sundowner and shopping area will not enter the housing area. All design aspects have been considered including security to these areas."

The EIA also noted that there were concerns that the proposed petrol station within the shopping complex would pose a security risk due to the high number of robberies experienced by other fuel retailers along the highway.

SHK, however, explained that there would be "laid down guidelines and requirements on the operation of the petrol station to avert cases of insecurity".

But when a proposal was made that the petrol station be moved to the opposite side of the estate where the developer has another parcel of land, Angelica Otieno of SHK said "the land spared on the opposite side of the estate was not viable for construction of the service station," according to the EIA.

Jennifer Luttson, a member of the Greenpark Estate Management Society (Gems), the management company that runs the affairs of the estate with every member a shareholder, says the proposed location of the petrol station has changed twice but the earlier locations did not bother the residents as they were far from their houses.

Changed road design

"The second original site was away from the estate. It was an open field. People did not have an issue with it, and would not interfere with the residents," she said.

Ms Luttson said despite the residents making it clear to the developer that they did not want to have a petrol station in the area, the developer went ahead to plan its construction.

"He (the developer) did not give documents to the residents when we requested. Homeowners and shareholders of Gems, in a meeting in July, said no to the construction and the developer was there.

"He called members and they said they did not want a petrol station. But when he sent in the minutes, he claimed the board had accepted the proposal."

Mr Arora admitted there was a shift in execution of the masterplan, with "the adjustment of retail location within the masterplan necessitated by the Kenya National Highways Authority design of Mlolongo-Machakos Junction Highway".

This was to ease access to the retail centre.

"The current location, therefore, provided frontage access with the former location becoming ideal for residential since it was not exposed directly to the highway," he said.

"Superior Homes then went through the process of amendment to master plan and the approvals are available for any resident to peruse at our offices."

In public participation mid-last year, Mr Arora said SHK had made it clear that the retail centre would include shops, eateries, a pharmacy and a service station, among other amenities.

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