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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In-Fill Developers See No Cause for Protest

ST. PETERSBURG -- Local construction companies do not understand public protests against in-fill construction because the sites developers are building on were designated as suitable for construction in a city plan that was approved in the 1980s, Lev Kaplan, head of the St. Petersburg Union of Construction Companies, said last week.

The only reason the sites were not built on in the '80s was because of the economic decline that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In-fill development involves construction on vacant or underused land plots, often green areas, in areas of cities that are already largely developed. Such construction in people's yards and the removal of trees has angered residents across the city.

"There are two parts to this problem," Kaplan said at a round-table organized by the ABN business news agency.

"One is related to construction sites located in suburban areas," he said. "Most of those sites were approved in the general plan to develop the city in 1985. This is about construction on empty sites that are supposed to be developed, so for this reason I'd say the protests of the public on this matter are unjustified.

"The second group of construction sites is in the historical part of town, and this is mainly about plans to develop projects that are necessary for the city, such as sites for infrastructure and buildings that had been approved by the city long ago," he said.

"At the same time, I do not welcome projects like the recent one in Mikhailovsky Gardens, for instance, just because some manager of a construction company liked the place," Kaplan added.

City Hall promised to build 2 million square meters of residential space this year, but estimates show that construction will fall at least 30 percent short of this target. The reason for this, which is also the reason for so much in-fill construction, is a lack of plots with infrastructure already in place, he said.

Meanwhile, representatives of Okstroi, a local construction company that has had repeated clashes with locals at numerous sites in the city, said residents are politically motivated.

"We have faced protests, for instance one organized on Institutsky Prospekt, that resembled some sort of military operation, but in fact looked like it was hooliganism," Okstroi representative Violetta Melnichuk said at the round-table.

"These people were not from neighboring houses," she said. "I saw them in pickets in different parts of town in which members of the National Bolshevik Party took part. This is about people who want to exploit the situation to achieve some PR goals easily."

In June, about 40 residents supported by the National Bolshevik Party prevented construction vehicles from entering their yard at 9 Institutsky Prospekt. Residents said the yard where Okstroi was building belonged to the neighborhood community.

But Alexei Belousov, a Legislative Assembly lawmaker, told the round- table he supports people's rights to defend their territories and regrets that legislation does not resolve in detail such questions as defining when a planned new building should be considered to be too near to existing buildings.