City of Tartu and Emajõgi Barge Society clash over use of riverside site
The relationship between the City of Tartu and the Emajõgi Barge Society (Emajõe lodjaselts) appears to be on the rocks. The city gave the society free use of a section of land along the bank of the Emajõgi River while the new Lodjakoda shipbuilding hall was being constructed. However, the city now says the society committed several building-related violations while using the site.
During the construction of the new Lodjakoda shipbuilding hall, the City of Tartu gave the site located at Madruse 24, which is also located along the bank of the Emajõgi River, to the Emajõgi Barge Society, in order to store materials.
However, now that the three-year contract has been concluded, the city claims the society has committed a number of building-related violations while using the site.
"The most significant violation is, that buildings have been installed in the zone along the bank of the Emajõgi River, where construction work is not permitted. This is a zone where no kind of building can be erected," said Andres Aint, head of Tartu's building inspection service.
Priit Jagomägi, head of the Emajõgi Barge Society, said that despite being in constant contact with the city during the contractual period, no issues had previously been raised regarding the activities conducted on the site.
Jagomägi also pointed out, that the structures in the "no-building zone", which the city has taken issue with are temporary and therefore not subject to the restrictions.
"In our view, they are more like temporary shelters and warming shelters, to which the building laws should not apply. We need(ed) to store materials and other things somewhere under a roof," Jagomägi said.
However, according to Tartu City Secretary Jüri Mölder, the allegedly illegal constructions are only a part of the problem, with several other potential violations of the contract also being investigated.
"Firstly, the area of land that was taken for use was significantly larger than the city had ever allowed. Secondly, the barge society also allowed third parties to use the property, or part of the property," said Tartu City Secretary Jüri Mölder.
"The other possible infringements that the city is currently pursuing are related to environmental issues, including hazardous waste, garbage, the dumping of construction waste on the property and illegal logging," Mölder added.
However, Jagomägi said, that during its time there, the barge society had actually improved the environmental situation in the area.
"When we first got the site, it was an overgrown rubbish heap. It turned out that we couldn't even store our things here. Over the three years, the situation here has actually improved a lot," he said.
According to Mölder, national supervisory procedures are currently under way to remove the illegal structures from the site, however, in his view, it will be difficult to fully restore the natural environment to its prior state.
Although Jagomägi said, that he would still like to extend the barge society's contract with the city, Mölder does not see this as an option.
"Inevitably, they will have to leave this location. Perhaps, the wishes voiced by the barge society in the past, that it might suddenly be possible to somehow legalize the illegal buildings there, will unfortunately not be possible (to grant)," said Mölder.
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Editor: Michael Cole