Asmall fishing village San Pedro once was. However, through development and recognition, more people flocked to the sandy shore. Soon enough, in 1984, San Pedro Village officially became a town. One can say that development has helped the community continue to grow leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, development has been considered a “double edged sword” and many a times, environmentalists lie on one side of the scale while investors lie on the other.
Since the inception of the South Beach development plan, developers and investors for the project have met with resistance from the community and environmentalists alike. Previous stories printed in The San Pedro Sun (Vol. 18 #21 and Vol. 18 #22) have highlighted the issues that environmentalist have regarding the location and magnitude of the project. This week, we present to you the South Beach project, their plans and how South Beach Development Limited plans to help the community move onwards toward the future.
South Beach is the creation of an investment group being spearheaded by Belizean developer Jeff Pierce, who has been in the industry within the country of Belize for the past ten years. Not a stranger to the ins and outs of construction in the country, Mr. Pierce created and continues to develop the area just north of the bridge known as Reef Village. Already occupied with condo owners, Reef Village has kept most of the wetlands surrounding its condominiums.
Fast track to 2008, Mr. Pierce revealed his plans for the most southern tip of Ambergris Caye, a project “that was influenced by the world famous South Beach Miami,” as stated on their website, www.southbeachbelize.com
Through its vast 700 acres, once completed, South Beach will house condo complexes (namely Palms Court and The Summit and others), six hotels (namely Casablanca, McAlpine Belize, Belize Berkeley Shores, The Crescent Hotel Belize, The Belizean Colony Hotel, The Breakwater Café and Hotel), the Dunes Casino and Resort, night clubs, spas and world class shopping.
A question that arises from many individuals is, how feasible is it that the occupancy rate for these hotel will be high? According to Mr. Pierce, it is very feasible by the promotion of big international charters. Currently, there are tourist groups of 100 to 200 vacationers who prefer to stay at one resort or neighboring complexes. Since the country does not offer that possibility (right now, they would have to be distributed between many hotels) these huge charters look for other countries that will provide that commodity. South Beach plans on helping with that. Add to that the fact that the Europe market is booming and that negotiations are already in play to have direct flight to Belize, then the tourism industry in Ambergris Caye will more than likely increase.
A Labor Force Survey conducted in September 2007 showed that the national unemployment rate stood at 12.1% (14,800 people) with 24% being youth unemployment. According to Mr. Pierce construction of South Beach Belize will undoubtedly reduce the unemployment rate tremendously; however, once South Beach is a reality, it will require an additional large, educated and strong work force. Currently at Reef Village, employees are Belizeans, with a few exceptions, who have been selected to improve the tourism product available at the resort. “In speaking with authorities, I learned that the biggest problem Belize faces, is the high unemployment rate,” commented Mr. Pierce, “we want to offer opportunities to the public.” Additional tourism influx will not only benefit the employment of those working at South Beach but will also help every segment on the island – fishing, diving, tour guides, restaurants, water taxis, air transport, retail, etc.
With more development comes more production of sewer wastes. Research and studies have shown that sewer waste may have a detrimental effect on the natural resources surrounding Ambergris Caye. Currently, Belize Water Services Limited (BWSL) provides sewer treatment services but only through the area from Victoria House and the San Pedro High School. BWSL worked closely with the Government of Belize to finance an extension of the sewer services which will continue from the San Pedro High School onward to the San Pedro Bridge and beyond to the Reef Village and San Marcos area. All other areas in Ambergris Caye who are not connected to the sewer grid employ the use of septic tanks to manage their waste. To help with the increasing problem, South Beach plans on operating wastewater treatment plants, the same used at Reef Village. These plants do not deposit sewerage into the water table like a septic system does.
Issues arising from the construction of South Beach include the proximity of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve to the proposed development. On their initial plans, South Beach had proposed the construction of a marina. However, after meeting with environmentalists and accessing the potential damage to the environment, South Beach pulled the plug on the marina plans. “As developers, my wife and I are first and foremost Belizeans. We have made this country our home and this is where we live and have chosen to invest in. Now think about it, why would we destroy the same environment that is contributing to our life style?” Stated Pierce.
Projected plans that are still in play for South Beach include the construction of a Police Station, Fire Department, Sporting facility, nursery, museum and the renovation of the abandoned Marco Gonzalez ruin.
According to Mr. Pierce the proper channels have been followed in order to begin construction. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been completed and a public consultation will be held. Last week’s announcement stating that South Beach was ready to have an EIA consultation was a misunderstanding between various parties. The EIA has been completed and copies are being currently made. The first draft copy has been delivered to the Department of Environment for review. Once accepted, a copy will be available at the San Pedro Town Council and another at the San Pedro Town Library for the public to study. After a set time, a consultation will be held. For further information, visit www.southbeachbelize.com
or contact Mr. Pierce at (226) 2769.