The Assembly of the City of Banja Luka is at a special session held on December 8, 2021, after several months of preparation, in which the issue of the budget rebalance was emphasized, made decisions on several regulatory plans without any discussion. In less than half an hour, the councillors passed and voted on the decisions in 26 items on the agenda, leaving the citizens without information about the nature of the mentioned documents.
Regulatory plans have, for who knows how many times, been overshadowed by major political skirmishes, although these are strategic planning documents based on which the future prospects of parts of certain settlements are defined, “new buildings are drawn” and other facilities, which become the prey of the so-called construction lobbies.
At the mentioned session, it was again out of the public eye to decide on the scope of a part of the Regional Center, measuring approximately 13.5 hectares, located on the border between Rosulje and Lazarevo, where there has been real construction expansion in recent years.
Residents of this part of the city have been pointing out numerous illegalities, sending numerous letters to the city authorities, however, they say that the former and, as things stand, current authorities are also determined to ignore the problems.
Namely, from 2009 until today, the original regulatory plan had several changes, which, as citizens say, were mostly done to their detriment, in order to benefit investors and maximize profits, without considering violations of the laws governing this area.
“As residents living here, and as ZEV, we have done numerous analyzes of the current situation, we have reported on problems, especially since the construction of a larger number of residential buildings with more than 400 new units is planned here, and we already have a big problem with the non-existence of parking spaces, lack of green areas, and facilities for children. The root of the problem is in the changes to the regulatory plan in 2013 when certain regulatory lines that are not in accordance with the Law on Spatial Planning and Construction were determined, which was in force at the time, ” says Bojan Stanišić, who together with his neighbours has been looking for a way to return everything to legal channels for years.
In the meantime, one of the investors and the owner of a large number of parcels on which the mentioned residential buildings were later built on, the company Rašo Gradnja, on two occasions in 2016 launched initiatives to change part of the regulatory plan, which was rejected by the City Administration.
The initiative requires the planning of a multi-family residential and commercial building (two blocks) on c.p. 1938/2 and 1940/1 instead of the planned above-ground multi-storey garage and parking space and garage on c.p. 1946/3, 1946/5, 1949/4, 1981/1 and 1989/1 instead of a business facility.
However, the Assembly of the City of Banja Luka, at its 19th session held in January and February 2018, rejected this Initiative because it was determined that it is not in accordance with the Rulebook on General Rules of Urban Regulation and Parcelling so that the achieved construction coefficient was 3.16 instead of the maximum 2.5, as well as that the minimum percentage of green space of 20% has not been complied with.
However, at the next sessions of the City Assembly, parts of the mentioned Regulatory Plan were changed. Thus, at the 32nd session of the Assembly, which was held in May 2019, made a decision to change the regulatory plan on the neighbouring parcel, which allowed the construction of another block, which further complicated the life of tenants, but also sent the subject of judicial proceedings.
It is a building that is currently being built by the company Trio Kop, and whose owners are being brought into contact with the President of the National Assembly of the RS, Nedeljko Čubrilović.
The City of Banja Luka worked several times on changes to parts of the mentioned Regulatory Plan, so, although it previously rejected the Initiative, it later accepted the investors’ requests and made a plan for another residential building in the space provided for a parking garage.
“Instead of the planned parking garage of floors -2PO+P+3, a multi-family residential building of smaller horizontal dimensions and floors Po+P+4+Pe is planned,” the response from the City Administration states.
What is striking is that in the period from 2013 to 2018, the City Administration issued building permits for at least 5 residential buildings, based on the same consent for parking, partly in a temporary parking lot, on cadastral parcels number 1946/3,1989/1, 1981/1.
According to the Gerlia, there are a total of 269 apartments in the newly built blocks No. 4,5,6,7 and 8, which were built on the basis of the mentioned building permits, for which parking spaces are needed too.
However, in reality, things are different. There are 104 parking spaces in the underground garages, eight parking spaces in the parking lot within the parcel, and 29 parking spaces within the public road.
A total of 141 parking spaces were provided in the field in the three previously described ways.
Illegal parking lots, expired permits, possible revocation of use permits
On the other hand, a huge problem for residents is the fact that the mentioned parking spaces on the basis of which building permits were issued are illegal and do not have use permits, and citizens fear that this could eventually lead to the revocation of use permits for the building.
The mentioned blocks were built by two construction companies Zidart from Mrkonjić Grad and Tigar from Doboj, on the basis of a business cooperation agreement with the previous owner of the land, the Arežina family, who are the owners of Golden Card, Miloš Impex and Rašo Gradnja.
In almost identical contracts concluded by these companies, point 3 states that the contracting party Rašo Gradnja, as the owner of the constructed temporary parking spaces, which have a temporary deadline of 13.11.2020, gives consent to the other contracting party for parking for tenants of these facilities, for a fee.
“At the mentioned location, one parking lot was built illegally, without a building permit, and the use permits for two parking lots were not extended”, it was confirmed to us in the response from the City Administration of Banja Luka.
The City Administration also confirmed that the facilities used by Golden Card, Rasho Company and Milos Impex are also illegal.
“The mentioned facilities are owned by a natural person with the initials AD and were built without a building permit. Decisions were made on the demolition of the buildings in question, and the proceedings were suspended until the finalization of the procedure of legalization of the buildings. ”
Mayor Draško Stanivuković says for Gerila that the entire neighbourhood was built on the wrong foundations and that there are responsibilities of the previous leadership in the City Administration, as well as that disciplinary and criminal liability of persons who allowed obvious violations of the law will be initiated.
“This is something we will deal with, but in the end, these are already proceedings that the locals themselves have already initiated against certain individuals. Whether the City will be a witness or the City will additionally strengthen certain reports on that issue, that is the proposal of the decision we will make. There is definitely a responsibility here. So, the locals have already started with certain actions. We, as the new administration, will meet, if necessary, to be a witness with papers and evidence. That is one aspect. The other aspect is that we, with our reports, strengthen the already existing lawsuits, “Stanivuković said for Gerila.
According to him, the new city administration has involved themselves in solving the problem, as well as having regular talks with the investor and citizens who express dissatisfaction every day.
He is of the opinion that, as he says, the degree of maximum satisfaction of the locals has been achieved, but that it is impossible to accept the maximalist approaches of them or the investors, because that is not realistic.
“You have a part of locals who ask us that the buildings that were already listed in the zoning plan before the arrival of Mayor Stanivuković and if a person got a permit according to that zoning plan, we cannot demolish that building and remove it from that parcel because that man has the posibility of suing the City, because of lost profits. He realizes the right and by changing the regulatory plan, he realizes the right to sue the city, which can be worth millions. This is the case with Kino Kozara. People say, mayor, we don’t want that building. I understand that, but it was drawn, he got all the permits up to the construction. We can put pressure to reduce the surface area, to change the square footage, but not to stop its construction 100%. We can do that, but you will come to a situation, as I have now come to, to lose the land of Autoprevoz and many millions of disputes. In the end, we pay millions of KM a year in lawsuits for such actions“, adds Stanivuković.
On the other hand, the locals point out that nothing has been resolved yet when it comes to the mentioned problem.
They regularly send remarks on new proposals for regulatory plans, where they list violations of numerous laws.
“Another problem is that Dragan Bubić Street was not a public road (owned by the City of Banja Luka) during the issuance of building permits for blocks 4,5,6,7 and 8. Insight into the copy of the cadastral plan for 2020, the parcel which makes up the subject road, Dragana Bubića Street, it was determined that cadastral parcels number 1938/13,1989/2 are registered as a construction site, and parcel number 1991/3 as a 3rd class field. It is obvious that the procedure of uniting cadastral parcels into a parcel of public road has not been completed, which would be a legal obstacle in issuing all construction permits for the construction of blocks No. 4,5,6,7 and 8“, the citizens state in constant letters.
Bojan Stanišić says that so far none of their remarks have been adopted. He points out that he is not against the construction and development of the city, but that it must be done in accordance with the law. He says that because of the constant frauds and machinations that the citizens encountered, they went with cameras to the public inspection of the proposed plan made by the CPC company.
“When it was made public, most citizens complained and they had to convene a public debate because more than 50% of the population complained. They held a public hearing when Mr Stanivuković was not in Banja Luka and when Ms Milada Šukalo, who was involved in resolving the case, was also not in Banja Luka. I found out about that meeting literally the night before, although they were obliged 48 hours before to inform us. They did not inform us. Our assumption is that they just wanted to drag us down, and that it goes to the Assembly to be adopted. We showed up at that meeting. The meeting was supposed to be around 11. The first problem we encountered was why we brought the camera since they did not allow it,” Stanišić points out for Gerila.
He notes that they constantly asked for an explanation as to why they were barred from recording something called a public hearing.
“They didn’t find a valid reason why we can’t do that, so they let us. They have no reason to ban it. Then Ms Šešić came out and told us that we also have an audio recording and that we can get an insight into that audio recording, to which I stated that some criminals and fraudsters work in the City Administration, and above all in the Spatial Department, so I believe that those audio recordings will ‘get the boot’ “, notes Stanišić.
He adds that the citizens had several meetings with the leaders of the City of Banja Luka, as well as with the representatives of the competent departments and that at one point they encountered very bad behaviour from individuals, of which they later informed the mayor.
“When we presented all the evidence at one meeting, the head of the Department of Physical Planning, Mr Višekruna, told us: Who is to blame for you buying apartments there? We pushed his back up against the wall with our evidence. He then picked up his papers and left the meeting. At that meeting Ms. Milada Šukalo and Mr Siniša Štrbac, who took over the Inspection Department, were also present. He acted correctly and apologized to us on behalf of the City Administration for the inappropriate behaviour of his colleague “, adds Stanišić, while one part of the residents fear even after rumours that the current mayor is on friendly terms with members of the Arežina family.
On the other hand, Stanivuković denies these claims, stating that these are incorrect stories, because, as he says, he really wants to solve the problem.
“First of all, these are bazaar stories based on some interest. I am friendly to every man, even to the one where the City demolished the Kayak Terrace. My message is: if you have all the permits, then feel free, the doors of the City Administration are open to everyone. I think we have to have that kind of institutional action. Secondly, one cannot choose who one will know, nor whether one will ever be mayor. The son of that gentleman went to the same school that I went to, we didn’t go to the same class, he’s a year older than me, so we’re a different generation. We know each other from that side as well, but we haven’t seen each other for more than 10 years “, adds Stanivuković.
In addition to the problem with parking, there is a lack of green areas, which the designers are trying to replace with several flower pots, as well as an obvious lack of content for children.
As they say, huge financial interests are hidden in the whole story, because with the new proposals, the construction of several more buildings in the mentioned block is planned, in which, according to a rough estimate, at least 430 more residential units will be built.
According to current estimates and market prices, this is a deal worth about 60 million KM, which will not be stopped, regardless of whether the laws have been violated and possible lawsuits, some of which have already been filed.
At the same time, on the website of the City Administration of Banja Luka, if someone asks to see a part of the settlement from the disputed regulatory plan, they will find that only one revision of the regulatory plan has been published, which does not reflect the current situation on the ground, nor the numerous changes which followed.