The owners of the famous Banja Luka motel “Golden Card” in Banja Luka have been expanding their business empire for decades through buildings that they have built illegally and for which they do not have building permits. For years, they built literally as they wanted, and realizing their ideas and business plans, they often worked to the detriment of the city and its citizens.
Author: Dejan Tovilović/capital.ba
This is proven by the case on the Dragan Bubić Street in Lazarevo, where this company stole a sidewalk from citizens, fenced it with iron poles and used it as part of its private parking lot where, to make the absurd even bigger, it illegally charged for parking for which they did not have a building permit.
After months of putting pressure on the new city administration, the inspection bodies went out on the field, and the sidewalk was cleared overnight.
However, illegal parking for which there is a demolition decision is still used and charged. Those who made the parking are postponing its demolition with the legalisation process, they launched two years ago, which is still ongoing.
What the locals suspect, and support with the extensive documentation they have collected, is that the Arežina family, which owns the “Golden Card”, has strong ties in the City Administration, because they tolerate numerous illegalities.
Their suspicion is also fueled by the fact that documents that could prove it, have mysteriously disappeared from the city archives.
The data obtained by the CAPITAL portal show that little of what the Arežina family did was in accordance with the law.
How was the sidewalk “stolen”?
After Dragan Bubić Street was built in 2015, pedestrians could only move on the left side if you look at the entrance from Srednjoškolska Street, because it had a sidewalk.
There was no footpath on the right. Anyone who planned to walk on that side would stumble upon the metal poles that bounded the previously built parking lot owned by the “Golden Card” company.
More precisely, a pedestrian walking on that side had to walk in the right lane or pass through a parking space.
There was no third option, except to cross to the opposite side of the street.
All this bothered the locals who joined forces and started a kind of investigation during which they discovered through the documentation that a sidewalk one and a half meters wide was supposed to go on the right side, but it was simply never made.
More precisely, when you look at the regulation plan and UT conditions, the sidewalk is planned, but the situation on the ground shows something completely different, and that is that where the sidewalk should be, is a parking lot.
The omission, as it turned out, was made by the contractor who was building the street, and when they saw which company was in question, it was clear to many that nothing happened by accident.
In 2015, the city entrusted the job to the company “Miloš Impex”, which was also owned by the Arežina family, and which was later merged with “Golden Card” and legally ceased to exist.
According to the spatial planning documentation, their task was to build a road 5.5 meters wide plus sidewalks on both sides, one and a half meters wide.
However, they made a sidewalk only on the left side, but they did nothing on the other side.
More precisely, they did not make a pedestrian path that was drawn over one part of the parking lot, and they did not remove the previously placed pillars, so instead of providing them with unobstructed passage, they created a kind of architectural barrier for the locals.
A view of the illegal parking lot and the non-existent sidewalk from the air, PHOTO: Capital
Only the company “Golden Card” knows why they did not make the sidewalk. The journalist of the CAPITAL portal tried to get in touch on several occasions, but they did not answer the phone, nor did they answer our questions.
As we find out, they recently hired workers who cut the poles and moved them by the width of the sidewalk towards the parking lot, thus forming a space for pedestrians, which can be seen as a kind of recognition that they have usurped space to which they were not entitled.
According to the information we received from the locals, the inspector of the city administration informed them that the Arežina family presented documentation proving that they are the owners of the land on which the sidewalk was supposed to be, which means that the city never resolved with them property-legal relations.
However, that did not prevent the then city administration from issuing all the necessary permits for this street.
The commission did not notice anything suspicious
When the company “Miloš Impex” finished the construction of the street, they submitted a request for a use permit to the City Administration.
It is interesting that a commission went to the field at that time, which established that everything was done in accordance with the technical documentation and proposed that a permit for the use of the street be issued.
It sounds incredible, but they attached a picture to the photo documentation, which clearly shows that there are no sidewalks on the right side and that pillars have been placed along that stretch.
The City Administration is justifying how they trusted the commission that went to the field and made a report.
“This department issued a use permit for the street in question, based on the report of the commission for technical inspection, which gave a positive proposal. We note that in accordance with the Law on Spatial Planning and Construction, the use permit is issued based on the request of the investor, ie the owner of the facility or his legal successor. After submitting the request, the Department forwards it to the commission for technical inspection, which determines whether the works were performed in accordance with the construction permit and technical documentation, as well as technical norms and standards”, they are justifying in the competent department.
By the way, the commission consisted of employees in the Public Institution “IMK”, which was later closed down due to numerous criminal acts and illegalities.
As many things did not match, the residents of the Dragan Bubić Street asked for the use permit to be reviewed.
In their request, they stated that by inspecting the documentation, they noticed numerous irregularities, which is why they suspect that the owner of the land, who was also hired as a contractor for the construction of the street, did not comply with the planning documentation.
“The sidewalk that was supposed to be built according to the road project during the construction was appropriated as part of the illegal parking lot. The contractor and owner of the illegal parking lot set up the poles and marked the parking place with the colour where the sidewalk was supposed to be,” it is stated in the request.
They got an answer a few days ago. However, instead of shedding light on the case, their suspicions about the behind-the-scenes actions of the people from the city administration and the “Golden Card” are only further fueled.
Namely, the urban-technical inspector reacted to their request, who wanted to check the building permit for the street, but did not find it in the archives.
The road was built on the basis of a building permit, but the file was not inspected because it is not available in the archives of the city administration,” it is stated in the letter to the citizens signed by Inspector Dragan Rokić.
As there was no documentation, a surveyor was sent to the site to mark the plot, which should represent a public road. It turned out that the citizens were right.
“The surveyor marked the plot and after that the unidentified persons removed the metal poles and moved them to the marked border of the plot. An inspection was carried out, and it was determined that the metal poles were moved, which freed the asphalt part in the width of 1.5 meters, that is, a pedestrian communication was formed,” said Inspector Rokić to the locals.
What all those living in this settlement are now afraid of is the possibility that the use permit for this street will be revoked, because the building permits for the residential buildings in which they live were issued on the basis of that use permit.
They build “wildly” so they defend themselves from demolition by legalization
While the locals are fighting for respect for order and regulations, in “Golden Card” they are trying to legalize what they built illegally, and at least according to what the CAPITAL portal has collected, there is quite a lot.
In other words, most of what the Arežina family built was “wild” without the necessary permits.
Among the numerous buildings, the parking lot was mentioned, for which the city inspector Biljana Dragonjić issued a Decision on demolition on July 14 this year because he did not have a building permit. She also fined them 5,000 KM.
However, to make the matter more interesting, she refuted her Decision on the same day and passed a Conclusion suspending the procedure at the request of the investor.
Namely, as it turned out, “Golden Card” submitted a request for legalization of parking in April 2019, and according to the Law on Legalization of Illegally Constructed Buildings, it has the right to suspend the demolition procedure until the legalization procedure is completed.
It is a parking lot where money was turned over for years and payment was made outside the law, because until recently no one but the city could perform this activity.
However, they found a catch in “Golden Card”, so they invoiced the parking spaces to the buyers as “renting a part of the land” and thus tried to legalize this business.
In addition to the parking lot, there are eight other buildings, including a motel and a restaurant, for which demolition solutions have recently been issued.
However, as in the previous case, these Decisions were repealed, as illegal builders applied for legalization.
Given that the motel was built at least 20 years ago, we were interested in how it was possible to work legally in an illegal facility for two decades. The City Administration did not know how to explain that to us.
As a rule, each catering facility should receive a Decision of the competent department on the fulfilment of the minimum technical requirements before starting work, where it should go to the field and perform a detailed control, among other things, whether the facility is built in accordance with the law.
If we take into account the model of behavior of the city administration towards the affairs of the Arežina family, it can be concluded that in this case, too, someone probably looked through their fingers.
By the way, as we managed to find out, regarding this case, but also numerous other illegalities related to spatial planning documentation in Dragan Bubić Street, several meetings were held in the City Administration between locals and competent people led by Mayor Draško Stanivuković.