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Theme park at Racecourse plan creates roadblock for lease renewal of 76 plots

Reason: the policy that was expected to enable the lease renewal has been stuck in the civic general body for more than two years.

mumbai Updated: May 19, 2019 08:38 IST
Eeshanpriya M S
Eeshanpriya M S
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
BMC,Shiv Sena,mumbai news
Shiv Sena plans to build a theme park at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, a Schedule W property.(HTPhotos)

Despite the state government’s recent directive on how to renew leases for 160 ‘Schedule W’ plots — those co-owned by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the state — the Shiv Sena-led civic body will not be able to renew leases for 76 such plots.

Reason: the policy that was expected to enable the lease renewal has been stuck in the civic general body for more than two years.

The clearance for the policy is expected to jeopardise the Shiv Sena’s plan of constructing a theme park at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, a Schedule W property. The Sena, which has a majority in the BMC, has a say in what will happen to the Racecourse.

On being asked for a comment, mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar said, “I will have to check the details and get an update on the policy.” Leader of the house Vishakha Raut was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the delay in renewal is causing losses in crores of rupees to the civic body. These plots are prime properties in South Mumbai, leased out for 10 to 99 years at nominal rates – anywhere between ₹1,500 to ₹50,000 per year. Once the leases are renewed, it will fetch BMC rent as per current ready reckoner rates. In 2016, the state government approved the renewal of lease of Schedule W properties, which would be carried out by the civic body. Last month, the state government gave BMC directives on how to renew leases of schedule W plots, following which BMC had begun the process. However, the fate of some plots seem to be stuck in a loop. “We cannot renew the leases of those plots which have breaches in the contract, such as additional construction or sub-leasing. Meanwhile, the breaches cannot be regularised unless there is an existing contract,” said a senior civic official.

To break this deadlock, former municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta had drafted the breaches policy. However, approval for it has been pending since December 2016. According to this policy, plots for which the agreement has expired but cannot be renewed owing to breaches will be renewed for a tentative period of three years. Within this time, tenants can regularise the breaches by paying a fine.

Mahalaxmi Racecourse is one of the five schedule W properties kept aside by the state from its 2016 policy, with a condition that it will issue separate orders on how to renew the Racecourse’s lease. “We cannot do anything about renewing the Racecourse’s lease, because there are breaches in its contract. With the breaches policy, these can be regularised, removing the final hurdle for the state to pass a separate policy about the lease of Mahalaxmi Racecourse,” said an official.

First Published: May 19, 2019 06:50 IST