AK: Narva 'Venice' dwellers anxious on development's future

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Boat ferrying passengers from A to B at Narva's 'Venice' district. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Residents of an area of the eastern Estonian town of Narva colloquially referred to as 'Venice', due to the number of waterside residencies in the district, have been waiting close to six years for a decision on its future. The dwellings, generally only inhabited in summer, have been illegally constructed, and line a man-made canal used to supply a nearby power station with its substantial water needs, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Saturday night.

While the practice of erecting the somewhat jerry-built constructions has long been seen in Narva and elsewhere in Ida-Viru County, the "Narva Venice" development is a particularly well-known one and, AK reported, it is unlikely that it would be torn down any time soon.

Board member of a boathouse association Aleksandr Jefimov told AK that: "There are 242 families living here, and they are workers in the power stations. This cooperative, these garages, were built in the eighties to enable power plant workers to rest, fish and spend their time.

"This is still the case now. In addition, it constitutes a whole social community. Several generations of children have grown up here," he added.

Petro Šerbatjuk, one of the riverside dwelling owners, told AK that clarity on the legal status of the development would still be welcome.

He said: "This is a particularly, not so much nerve-wracking, but vague situation. I would very much like some stability, and if these buildings became legal, we would invest even more here."

The erections, extended out of boathouses, are close by the Baltic Power Plant (Balti Elektrijaam), one of the world's two largest oil shale-fired power stations - the other is in Narva too - and as noted the employer of most of the wage-earners living in Narva "Venice" in summertime.

The houses are nonetheless illegal, and, AK stated, due to negligence on the part of owners they generally have not been privatized since the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, and do not have the required documentation and permits.

The land itself belongs to the power plant, and the canal-side dwellers, who use small boats to get around, say their biggest fear is the company will not want to sell, grant or rent-out the sites in the longer term.

Andres Vainola, management board chair at Enefit Power, told AK that: "I think at some point people would like them to be inherited, passed on down the family and so on. We still have to put them up for auction and sale. But one of our ideas, for example, would involved offering a full sale. Maybe we won't sell the development piecemeal, which would mean that the residents should then consolidate themselves and make a joint offer."

One organization, the Garaažiühistu (garage association) has auditing the constructions, but the land issue remains unresolved.

AK looked round one such dwelling, which had balcony, lounge, kitchen and the usual facilities needed for summering outside of the town.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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