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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Builders Act to Keep Residents Informed

ST. PETERSBURG - In a bid to appease disgruntled residents, a number of St. Petersburg's construction firms announced plans Wednesday to formulate a coordinated strategy for keeping the public informed about new building projects.

"We have been alarmed by the unwarranted protests that have occurred recently on construction sites. With a few exceptions, these have not been real conflicts between builders and residents but simply arise out of a result of a lack of information," Maxim Shubarev, president of the Northwest Construction and Industrial Complex Association and of the Peterburgskaya Nedvizhimost building firm, said at a news conference.

Construction firms believe that regular letters to local residents and feedback via complaint boxes at construction sites can help to improve the situation.

"We have often seen intentional attempts at disinformation," St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Alexander Vakhmistrov said.

Discontent among local residents is often cynically exploited by populist politicians and sometimes provoked by competitors, the constructors said.

But Vakhmistrov said that in 99 percent of cases construction is absolutely "legal and acceptable."

Nonetheless, St. Petersburg city government has been compelled to reverse a number permits for construction, including one for a project on Ploshchad Muzhestva. Other recent disputes referred to by Vakhmistrov on Wednesday included construction projects at Pulkovskaya Ulitsa and in Kalininsky district, where a new house was to be built between two schools.

Before starting construction, Shubarev's association advises companies to distribute a letter across the district describing the proposed project in detail. Complaint boxes should also be made available for residents at construction sites, Shubarev said. A number of firms will test the proposal over the coming months, he said.

Vakhmistrov also urged other construction companies to introduce similar schemes.

Another aspect of the problem is that local residents are displeased with the problems that that construction sites can cause.

Vakhmistrov said City Hall responded to a recent accident involving falling cranes by launching an investigation. As a result, the authorities suspended operations on about 50 construction sites, temporarily shut down over 300 lifting mechanisms and handed out over 200 fines.

Lack of consultation has also raised the hackles of heritage experts, like Boris Kirikov, deputy chairman of St. Petersburg's Committee for State Control and Protection of Monuments, who accused real estate investors of "bad manners."

"Primarily they are just worried about making the territory free of liabilities, if not free of everything. An investor's point of view is often cynical to the extent of savagery," Kirikov said last Tuesday, Rosbalt news agency reported.

"We saw how historical Moscow was ruined. Now big money is flowing here, and the risk is high that all that cash will have little effect on our mental well-being," said Alexander Margolis, co-chairman of the Russian Society for the Protection of Monuments in St. Petersburg.