Larnaca’s municipal authority is proposing evictions and tearing down illegal structures as it tries to resolve problems on the popular Mackenzie beach area, it emerged this week.
According to deputy mayor Petros Christodoulou, the municipality has prepared a report requested by Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, regarding the problems with some of the establishments in the area.
The beach front has been managed by the municipality since December 2012, when it signed an agreement with the interior ministry for the plots used as car parking and the recreation area.
The land belongs to Turkish Cypriots and by law it is under the guardianship of the interior ministry.
The municipality, which is subletting the plots, pays rent to the interior ministry but some of the establishments in the area do not recognise the agreement between the municipality and the ministry and are refusing to pay rent.
Around two years ago, the municipality reviewed and updated contracts dating back to the 1980s but some businesses have rejected the higher rates.
Some insist they continue to pay rent based on the rate agreed in their initial contracts, which was CY£250 (around €425) per year, Christodoulou said, whereas the rent according to the new contracts is €900 per month.
“There are in total 14 establishments at the Mackenzie beach, plus three empty plots,” Christodoulou told the Sunday Mail.
The plots were initially leased to refugees who lost their properties following the invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island by Turkey. They in turn rented the properties to others who turned them into restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Christodoulou added that the users of some establishments have agreed to the new contracts and pay the higher rent, but there are two other groups: one where businesses agree to pay the new rate but it’s the initial users who are refusing to sign the new contacts, and the other where it’s the businesses who are refusing to sign the new contacts or pay rent.
“Among our suggestions is the eviction of those who refuse to pay,” Christodoulou said.
Another issue is the expansion of the establishments into the strip, designated a green area, between the pedestrian path and the beach.
“We initially said that there will be no use of that space but after they (businesses) took it over, and in order to be able to control the situation, we told them we agree to them placing their chairs and tables there, but we charge them for cleaning the area,” Christodoulou said.
The municipality is going to propose to the ministry to allow the use of that space by businesses but with building restrictions.
“Some have already erected structures. Our suggestion is for them to be allowed to install some sort of floor but not to erect buildings, and for the removal of structures,” Christodoulou said. He added that most businesses have already complied.
The Mackenzie area, he said, was an “entrepreneurship experiment” which worked.
“From the 500 people that used to visit the area in the past, we have now 10,000 visitors on weekends,” Christodoulou said.
Hasikos had asked for the report after the arrest last May of the municipal secretary, Lefteris Empedoclis, over allegations of theft, bribery, and corruption. Empedoclis was reported by a Mackenzie restaurateur who claimed that he had paid him €35,000 in cash in 2015 as a fine for irregularities found at his establishment. The businessman thought the issue was over but earlier this year he was notified that he had to appear in court in connection with the irregularities.
When he asked Empedoclis what would happen he reportedly replied “the papers will come back to me and I will sort it out.”
Police investigations at the Larnaca Town Hall had produced no evidence of the amount being deposited in the municipality’s accounts, nor of any procedure initiated to settle the matter of the irregularities, to which the businessman referred.