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THE ALIEN LAND HOLDING LICENCE: TIME FOR A CHANGE?

Over the past number of weeks, a Government sponsored review has been under way to gather public opinion on the matter of the alienation of Anguillian land--an interesting topic which has generated intriguing thoughts and responses. In this brief piece, I would like to highlight one specific proposal put forward: the issuance of an alien licence to hold Anguillian land which is not a "site specific" licence.

The permitting process involved in the development of real estate is a fact of life which benefits both the public and private sector. From Boston to Anguilla (and beyond), the requirement for public sector review of private sector development proposals with regard to social impact, architectural design and material specification is an established and beneficial reality.

In Anguilla there is an additional requirement for the non-belonger: he must receive a licence to own or lease land before he can enter into the planning permission and building permitting process. In concept, such a policy is absolutely correct--the alienation of land must be monitored and regulated. At the moment, however, the licence an alien must obtain is a "site specific" licence--in other words, a registered land owner must contract to sell or lease land to an alien individual or company before that alien can apply to Government for a licence.

Hence, the private sector negotiation is always conducted against a background of substantial uncertainty--will the Government issue the alien a licence; will the alien complete the purchase after the licence has been approved; will the licence be refused, with the resulting consequence that the land was forced dormant while the licence was under review; etc. Inevitably, such uncertainty has a deflating impact on land prices, while simultaneously increasing the probability that private sector negotiations may involve hard work without reward.

A proposal to end such uncertainty, while maintaining control, is to allow an alien to apply for a "non-site specific" licence. By submitting personal records (i.e. financial, social, legal, etc.) for review and approval prior to negotiating the lease or purchase of a specific site, Government is able to maintain control while freeing the private sector to negotiate. The "non-site specific" licence could have as many (or as few) restrictions as Government deemed necessary, but once issued would allow the alien to negotiate with land owners from a position of mutual confidence.

"Non-site specific" licences could be broken into different categories (i.e. residential, tourism, or commercial--purchase or lease); could be issued for a set amount of time to allow for private sector negotiation and public sector registration (i.e. six months, one year); could be size specific (i.e. half acre, two acres, etc.) could be fee based (i.e. fixed fees or percentages based on category, average values and allowed size); and could maintain the conditions regarding development time frames, square footage requirements, construction values, etc., which presently exist or are deemed to be appropriate. However, all such conditions would be established prior to private sector negotiation.<

Such a system is beneficial to both the alien and the registered land owner--both parties know in advance what Government has allowed the alien to do with regard to real estate. Once an agreement is reached, transfer and registration can be quickly completed provided the agreement does not violate the licence conditions with regard to category or size. Planning permission and building permit approval would be required for the alien in the same manner as it is required for the Anguillian, and any specific licence requirements with regard to square footage and construction value can be monitored at that stage.

With "non-site specific" licences, penalties (even forfeiture) can still be enforced if agreed licence conditions are not met--however, the beauty is that public sector review and approval is granted prior to private sector negotiations. Such a policy would introduce confidence without diminishing control, and bears further discussion.

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