Tuesday, 16 July

Minister Wins, Residents Lose in Court

We reported on the destruction of the green zone between the residential apartment buildings at 19 Agayan Street and 56 Teryan Street in central Yerevan and launching of construction by the Nushikyan Association in the February 5 issue of Hetq.

On behalf of the residential buildings' Commission for Protection of the Rights of Residents of those buildings, Chairman Ruben Torosyan sued Yerevan Municipality and the Yerevan mayor for unlawful activity, but lost the suit in court.

The residents brought two more actions—against the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia and Minister Ayvazyan—again for unlawful activity.

Residents are angry that the Environmental Expert Examination SNCO (State Non-Commercial Organization) of the ministry failed to conduct an expert study of the planned construction and to seek the opinion of the residents, and that Minister Ayvazyan allowed the Nushikyan Association to cut down twenty large trees, even though the ministry's Nature Protection Inspectorate had previously forbidden any construction work in the area in question.

The Court of First Instance of the Kentron and Nork-Marash Districts dismissed the two suits on February 8 and 12. But Ruben Torosyan says that they are not discouraged and plan to pursue the case further.

But the construction work is happening fast. The playground next to the park—the only place for neighborhood children to play—has already been demolished.

Was Yervand Zakaryan implicated in giving permission for construction in green zones?

Deputy Mayor Kamo Areyan said in an interview on February 13 that designs for construction in Yerevan's green zones had been hastily approved before 2003, i.e. prior to the appointment of current Mayor Yervand Zakaryan. Currently, according to Areyan, the municipality is not implicated in such actions.

Areyan added that the 2,000 square meter lot at the intersection of Agayan and Teryan Streets was given to the Nushikyan Association Ltd by then-Mayor Albert Bazeyan (Hetq has written about this and subsequent events). Yerevan's Chief Architect Samvel Danelyan maintains that the construction work by the Nushikyans is legal and complies with urban construction standards.

We should point out that this project which allegedly complies with urban construction standards has been shut down several times, by former Chief Architecture Narek Sargsyan specifically. Furthermore, Mayor Zakaryan met with a delegation of residents from the two buildings on December 12 of last year and assured them that he has halted the construction, and it should only be resumed in a lawful manner. But one month later, on January 20, the Nushikyan Association cut down twenty trees in the area. Areyan insisted in a February 13 interview that the construction had been stopped, but the demolition of the children's playground took place three days later.

“It appears that after each such statement the unlawful activity is accelerated,” Torosyan said.

The problem is not limited to the construction going on next to 56 Teryan 56 and 19 Agayan Streets. The entire center of Yerevan has undergone intense building in the last few years. The construction boom that paved over much of Oghakadzev (Circle) Park has given way to the “elite” high-rise apartments and commercial buildings that are springing up today. It is very difficult to believe Areyan's claim that the municipality has not been involved in approving the plans for construction in the green zones.

According to a new general plan for Yerevan, urban construction is to be decentralized and shifted towards the outskirts of the city; for some, this means the rush is on to lay claim to land in the desirable city center.

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