Why is the Engels administration strangling the last serious developer in the city
Confrontation between the Engels administration and the construction company SC “New Age” growing in the courts. Out of 6 valid permits for the construction of apartment buildings, the organization has only 3 left. 3 more, contrary to the norms of the Urban Planning Code, were put on hold and 7 new applications were refused.
The situation actually looks like pressure on the business, since for the developer such obstacles are not only a loss of money, but also of reputation. Some citizens have already begun to terminate the equity participation agreements. Banks are nervously looking at the developer, who is experiencing a flurry of administrative prohibitions, and his relations with suppliers of building materials are complicated. But the authorities do not seem to care about the fate of the taxpayer, who provides work for a team of almost 300 people and has transferred hundreds of millions of rubles to the treasury in recent years.
If you can’t, but really want to
Recent meetings in the Saratov arbitration demonstrated a rare indifference of the administration – none of the officials responsible for the construction sector appeared in court, although the department for ensuring urban planning activities of the EMR administration was involved in the case as a third party, along with the committee on land resources. Of the third parties, only representatives of the regional Ministry of Construction and the prosecutor’s office came to the meeting.
Recall that Novy Vek is challenging all three suspended building permits at once. On pause were the houses along the streets of Vokzalnaya, Petrovskaya and Marina Raskova. At the same time, the land under the construction sites is leased by the company and it regularly pays the fee for it to the district treasury.
It would seem that there is a submission from the prosecutor’s office, where the Engels officials were told that the building permit could not be suspended. If the administration has already issued it, it can only withdraw it, but this is done only through the courts. The City Planning Code does not provide for any other actions.
The prosecutor’s office of the city of Engels issued a proposal to eliminate violations of urban planning legislation to district officials six months ago, on September 15, 2022. The document explains that when issuing permits, the local government is obliged to assess the compliance of the construction project with the requirements that were in effect for the issuance of the town-planning plan for the land plot.
The main argument of officials, as “BV” has already said, is the lack of the necessary social infrastructure, kindergartens and schools in the vicinity of the construction site. But the city planning norms were changed by the administration in August 2022. All permits issued up to this point should not be affected by the innovation. So it is written in paragraph 2 of part 11 of article 51 of the Town Planning Code of the Russian Federation. Permits for the construction of three houses were issued in August-September 2021. A year before the administration introduced new requirements. The project documentation has been reviewed. There is no de jure reason to interfere with construction. But, apparently, he really wanted to interfere.
“In view of the foregoing, by issuing the above permits for the construction of houses to SK Novy Vek LLC, the district administration confirmed the compliance of the project documentation with the construction requirements,” the order says. The company managed to spend 500 million rubles on 3 houses. The degree of their readiness varies from 15% to 60%. At the time of the suspension of permits, funds from 10 equity holders were attracted.
The administration of the Engelssky district was ordered to “immediately consider this submission with the participation of the city prosecutor’s office and take concrete measures to eliminate the violations of the law, their causes and the conditions that contribute to them.”
Unfortunately, the prescription does not specify the time frame for these violations to be corrected. And there is no need to teach officials to pull the rubber.
Now building permits for houses appear suspended until July 1, 2023. Even though they can’t be stopped by law. All the more strange is the position of the prosecutor’s office at the court session on February 28. The representative of the supervisory authority pointed out the need to maintain a balance of interests three times, after which she suddenly stated that “the suspension of the normative act does not, in principle, contradict the law, but we drew the attention of the administration to a number of issues.”
This statement pretty much surprised the New Age lawyers: the September order clearly states that the Urban Planning Code does not provide for such amateur performances with permits. And with a slight movement of the hand, “elimination of violations” turns into “a number of issues”, and the construction permit is approached as a spherical legal act in a vacuum, which I want to suspend, I want to launch.
Suspension of their own documents seems to have become a favorite tool of the Engels officials. With Turgenev Street, which Novy Vek settled at its own expense and was already going to build up, they acted even easier – they suspended the decree approving the territory planning project. Generally for an indefinite period. Now nothing and no one can build on Turgenev. It is not clear how this legislative maneuver is combined with plans for laying a water pipeline, for which the administration has now announced a tender?
Children, get ready for school
Officials continue to point out that if there are no schools with kindergartens, then there is no construction. True, in this case it is not clear why New Age is not allowed to build not only a house, but also a school on Marina Raskova Street. And the educational institution, we note, had to be built with the expectation not only of the company’s own houses, but also of neighboring ones. The school is designed for 1,500 places, despite the fact that the contract for the comprehensive development of the territory of the former military school indicated 900. Where, who and when offered Engels a school on such terms at his own expense?
Saratov more recently through MUPP “Ritual” took loans for such construction projects, until he was hinted that this was wrong. At schools being built on the terms of subsequent redemption by the municipality, the Saratov construction group Arkada went bankrupt and went to the bottom. Here, the school does not even need to be redeemed. What makes the administration, with persistence worthy of a better use, cut off the oxygen for the developer?
The lack of social infrastructure in new areas is a long-standing and systemic problem. It is not limited to Engels, the regional center has no less headaches. But are developers always to blame? In Solnechnoye-2, contracts for the development of the territory were concluded without taking into account kindergartens and schools, for which officials were then justly blamed. In long-established neighborhoods, schools and kindergartens often turn out to be in private hands 10-20 years ago, in a good way, cities are still disentangling the consequences of the demographic hole of the 90s, when children’s institutions really closed due to lack of demand.
To solve this problem, there are national projects, funds are allocated for them. Saratov can be scolded for the quality of the tenders, but new kindergartens and extensions to schools in the regional center do not knock developers out. What prevents Engels from systematically solving the problem in the way competent managers should solve it?
Who will we be friends against?
Here it would be nice to remember that with the builders at the new head of the district Dmitry Plekhanov, who, as the former owner of a construction company himself, it would seem that he should know this area well, in general, relations are complicated. Either “Kronverk” kicks out from Shurova Gora, then “New Age” cuts off everything that is possible. But on the other hand, it signs contracts for the provision of new apartments for almost 2 billion rubles from OOO SZ Volga Development Com with two staff members.
Recall that behind the VDK stands IC Sistema – this is a developer with experience, but in this case, why do some market participants get preferences, while others get bans contrary to the law and just common sense? An involuntary question – under whom is the industry cleared in Engels, squeezing other players out of it? Who will come to Shurov Gora instead of Kronverk, who will build up Turgenev Street instead of Novy Vek?
Suppose officials push through their decision and get empty construction sites. What will they do with them? Now the administration, guided by considerations that are still unclear from the court materials on the arbitration website, has filed 2 claims for the dismantling of two houses that have already begun before Novy Vek. As explained to “BV” in the company, these are only pile fields, there are no equity holders there. Suspicions are creeping in that someone really needs construction sites ready for development. And if this is so, it seems that it is not the prosecutor’s office that should say the word.
In Saratov, let us recall, officials of the mayor’s office for much smaller sins became defendants in criminal cases on obstructing the legitimate activities of a business. Former Deputy Mayor Anton Korneev a single refusal to issue a building permit was enough, although the statute of limitations saved him from punishment, but the civil service is closed for an ex-official with such a biography. Here, there are 7 failures, but the prosecutor’s office limited itself to an order that no one is in a hurry to comply with.
The passivity of the regional ministry of construction is also incomprehensible. Over the past few years, the region has lost very large market players. “Arcade”which built a whole microdistrict, overstrained itself on social construction sites and went bankrupt, the same fate befell “Engelsstroy” – the oldest developer in the Engels district, who survived the collapse of the USSR, two economic crises, but could not withstand the same load, coupled with the sudden hostility of those in power and excommunication from already concluded contracts. “Astek-Development” left behind only townhouses. Story ZhBK-3 ended in bankruptcy, a criminal case against the founder and a set of troubled houses, so that neither Engels nor Saratov would be bored, clearing up the accumulated problems. Now we are burying the New Age, which has not created problems for anyone so far? If so, then all the calls to increase the investment attractiveness of the Saratov region, alas, are not worth the paper on which they are printed.