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#340143 - 06/04/09 12:30 PM New Subdivision raises many concerns
Marty Online   happy
San Pedro Town is one of the fastest growing communities in the country, making land to build residential homes a high demand. For that reason, Ambergris Caye has become an ideal place to invest and make subdivisions which accommodate the demands for house lots. Jumping on the opportunity to supply the great demand for land is Sugar Caye Development who this week, by means of a press releases announced their plans to develop a new subdivision.
The proposed subdivision got the green light from the Land Utilization Authority (LUA) to subdivide on 29th of October in 2008 under the name of David Mitchell for and on behalf of Sugar Caye Development Limited. The LUA approved for parcel 5054 next to the DFC area, containing 63.2 acres of land subdivided into 421 parcels of land. The only requirement is for the developer to provide centralized open spaces which by law is 5% of unusable land; which in this subdivision is equivalent to the size of 21 house lots.

The new subdivision announced by Sugar Caye Development only came to light this week but is actually a project that had started over a year ago. In fact, the new subdivision is documented at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as being a residential subdivision development project by the San Pedro Town Council. A number of documents provided to The San Pedro Sun show that in July of 2008, the San Pedro Town Council submitted an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) to the Department of the Environment (DOE) for the same subdivision that Sugar Caye Development has now announced. The subdivision got environmental clearance on November 10th 2008 when it was approved by Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria.

Because the subdivision is a low laying mangrove wetland area, investors involved in the subdivision had to consider cutting down mangrove and filling the land. As part of the subdivision plan, a channel will be constructed to allow access by water to the area from the proposed site to an area of the lagoon near the Town’s Marina. Documents show that on April 1st, 2009, the Forestry Department approved the Belize Ports Authority (BPA) permit application to clear mangrove on parcels number 5196 and 5027. Another document dated April 3rd 2009 shows that the Geology and Petroleum Department also approved the Belize Port Authority with a permit to dredge on parcels 5196 and 5027. Both permits were necessary to create a channel that would allow the developer with the needed water access that was necessary for the new subdivision.

Both the San Pedro Town Council and the Area Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia in separate letters dated November 28th, 2009, wrote to the Belize Ports Authority (BPA) expressing full support and asking for courtesies to be granted to David Mitchell for the approval for excavation of a canal leading to his subdivision. On December 19th the Belize Ports Authority wrote David Mitchell where the letter stated that they had granted request for access to dredge through two parcels of land belonging to BPA.

So why did the Town Council submit an ECP for a project that is not theirs? Deputy Mayor Nestor Gomez explained to The Sun that “I don’t really know why, what I do know is that the project was only brought up verbally during a Town Council meeting but no hard document was presented before us.” While Gomez could not say why the project was not made public, he said that the necessary permits were secured with the help of the Mayor Elsa Paz and the Area Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia. When asked if the Town Council knew that they will be held responsible should anything goes wrong with the subdivision Gomez stated, “I don’t think so.”

According to Alegria, any non-compliance of the terms within the ECP will be answerable by the San Pedro Town Council who submitted the ECP and not the investor. Alegria went on to say that the SPTC never stated in the ECP that it was not their investment. Alegria stated that there is no subdivision under the name of Sugar Caye Development neither under Grand Belizean Island Company Limited; all documents are under the San Pedro Town Council and the Belize Ports Authority. Alegria could not state whether any inspection for this project was conducted before the approval of the ECP but said that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not necessary because it was a project which local authorities on the island claimed they were undertaking. For the subdivision to take place permits need to be obtained to cut mangroves as well as permits to dredge for interconnectivity of channels within the 63 acres of land.

Retired Chief Hydrologist at the Belize Meteorologist Service Frank Panton is spearheading the subdivision. Panton could not confirm if the required permits have been obtained to conduct dredging and mangrove clearance within the 63 acres of land. In fact Panton stated there is little mangrove in the area and that as part of the subdivision, they will be planting mangrove along the channels.

The project has come under close scrutiny by the Ambergris Caye Citizen for Sustainable Development (ACCSD). In a meeting with the San Pedro Town Council on Tuesday June 2nd, the ACCSD pointed out their concerns that the new subdivision will have on the community. Those concerns includes the location of the new subdivision which is directly next to the sewage pounds, the health complication that residents could be exposed to because of the proximity to sewage deposits that is empted into mangrove area where the subdivision is proposed and the importance of the mangrove area to the sewage system which serves as a filter.

The SPSUN made multiple efforts to contact Mayor Elsa Paz for comment on the project but calls were not returned and all attempts were futile.

San Pedro SUn

#340174 - 06/04/09 03:39 PM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: Marty]
Moose In Belize Offline
This development is being advertised as being "for local residents". I'm not really sure what that means, but I gather it's not intended to sell lots or houses to persons interested in moving to or investing in Belize.
Moose Keep an open mind and something good may fall in.

#340186 - 06/04/09 04:57 PM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: Marty]
sweetjane Offline

#340271 - 06/05/09 01:04 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: sweetjane]
Marty Online   happy
There is more controversy coming out of La Isla Bonita - and you guessed it, it’s over real estate again! This time the story is that Canadian developer, David Mitchell, has been granted permission by the Department of the Environment to develop marsh land in the vicinity of the San Pedro sewer system into a residential area to be called Sugar Caye Development. It has also gotten the nod from the Geology and Petroleum Department for the dredging to create a channel. And while the project has received the green light from these departments, various persons have raised environmental concerns. The proposed project is dangerously close to a sewer system in low-lying wetlands and the main concern is what would happen in the event of a hurricane. What's more, Mitchell’s application for approval to clear mangroves for the project was made by the San Pedro Town Council. Marion Ali was in San Pedro and has a report.

Marion Ali, Reporting
This is the project site from the sky; an area measuring little over sixty-three acres which will be subdivided into over four hundred parcels of land. It is located right next to the San Pedro sewer waste site, about four miles away from the centre of town. And this is the cover page of the application to the Department of the Environment made out by the San Pedro Town Council and signed by Mayor Elsa Paz on behalf of Sugar Caye Development. The project was granted permission by Chief Environmental Officer, Martin Alegria, to clear mangroves for the project. It is a project that despite the concerns, developer, David Mitchell will carry out. Mitchell is presently out of the country, but Frank Panton who is the project consultant, gave us an idea of what it will be.

Frank Panton, Environmental Consultant, Sugar Caye Dev. Proj.
“The scope of the project is to develop a new sub-division south of San Pedro Town for living, of course and we’re going to develop plots of land for building homes on. The area is relatively near to the sewer ponds that serve the whole town of San Pedro. It’s made for the use of about sixty-six thousand people and it’s very under-utilised. So the project itself is gonna be near a facility that will actually improve the conditions of health.”

But while many are concerned about the environmental impact of the residential project in the sewer system area, Frank Panton says there is nothing at all to worry about.

Frank Panton
“The ponds are designed to sit there and make the sewage bacteria die, that’s what the ponds are all for. They’re scientifically designed and whenever any disaster comes along most of the stuff will already be cleaned up in the ponds. If there is any overspill there is always one – the pond is a set of three, two are always in use and for any overflow conditions it will simply overflow into the third empty one.”

Marion Ali
“So you’re saying categorically Mr. Panton that nobody’s health will be compromised at all, none at all.”

Frank Panton
“My particular job with this company is to make sure that all the environmental compliance is met, that everything is environmentally safe and that people’s health are well taken care of.”

But even if the project proposal has met the requirements of the Department of Environment, the next question is why did the San Pedro Town Council intervene on behalf of a private developer to get an application approved? The town’s Deputy Mayor, Nestor Gomez, said there really was nothing behind it and that San Pedro needs more space for homes.

Nestor Gomez, Deputy Mayor, San Pedro Town Council
“Lot of people from the mainland are coming here to look for a job. Once they’re here for two years, the first thing they come and say is “I need a little piece of land”. Now this gentleman approached the Town Board and said look I have sixty-two or sixty-three acres and he said let’s work together. Let’s do it and we can sell it to the local people at a reasonable price.”

Marion Ali
“Is it the norm that the council would do that for a developer?”

Nestor Gomez
“No, not really. It seemed easier, a better way if we did the application because he asked us.”

But News Five understands that some of the same people who don’t support the project include some councillors on the Town Council as well as a group which Gomez had formed to protest a previous development, the controversial South Beach Development mega project. Today it appeared that while Gomez and his council applied for approval for the project, he personally had an issue with it initially.

Nestor Gomez
“We have a group—and I formed part of the group—it’s called Citizens for Sustainable Development. We are saying that because of the WASA that has their pond there for the filtering for the sewer system, that it is not the best area to give out lots for the people. But if the government of Belize, if the departments have already issued all these permits for him and have already given him the green light to go ahead, I don’t know, it’s kinda… to me. But again we cannot stop development.”

While they cannot stop development, one thing Gomez says they can stop is applying for approval for another project since they have taken quite a flack for this one.

Nestor Gomez
“After going through all this I think we’d have to sit down and really think about it. I don’t know.”

Marion Ali
“What are you going through?”

Nestor Gomez
“Oh, it’s a lotta heartaches and heartbreaks because all of the newspapers they come to us and just like you, why did the council did this? I thought we did it in good heart.”

Marion Ali
“Is anybody benefiting from the council out of this project personally?"

Nestor Gomez
“As far as I know, no.”

Reporting fro News Five, Marion Ali.

News Five understands that each plot of land will cost around seventeen thousand dollars, GST included. We acknowledge the assistance by freelance correspondent, Jorge Aldana.

#340272 - 06/05/09 01:06 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

There is concern and a little bit of controversy tonight in San Pedro over a new housing development on the island. Canadian developer David Mitchell has been given approval and has started to carve out 421 parcels of land on a 63 point 2 acre plot of land in south San Pedro. But the Ambergris Caye citizens for sustainable development has sounded the alarm because of its location and are demanding answers from their town council because of its involvement. Keith Swift has the story.

Keith Swift Reporting,
This is a satellite image of the future site of the controversial Sugar Caye Development Subdivision. The subdivision will be located here on the south side of San Pedro, here on San Pedro it is called south San Pedro and the problem those in opposition to the project have is that the subdivision will be located right next to the island’s sewer pond. That’s right, the subdivision will be built next to where the island waste is treated and then released.

Catherine Paz, Vice Chairman – ACCSD
“There are definitely health concerns. We can’t have our citizens living in that area. I don’t think anyone would want to live back there. That area has specific buffer zones and we have to respect what is back there.”

Keith Swift,
And then the mangroves are there also and those will be cut down.

Catherine Paz,
“Well the mangroves right now act as a buffer for the sewer ponds and they have a canal that they’ve dug there. When it starts filtering out the canal will lead all the sewer that hasn’t been filtered into the lagoon. I mean that is just bad for the whole environment; the fishermen – you know everybody.”

But Frank Panton whose been hired by the developer to ensure environmental compliance says that the development will help the area’s environment.

Frank Panton, Environmental Engineer
“We will be developing the area which has been abused before and this is the area that was scooped up and used as fill for both the road to the sewer system as well as the DFC area. We’re going to improve this area, at the moment it has mangroves growing there but the mangroves are crippled, they are about four feet high more or less at the most and about half of it is just scooped to earth. We are going to improve it. We will develop the interflow of water using a canal system and at the same time the canals will provide the material for levelling of the area. As close as it is to the sewer lagoon it is a benefit because then the whole development will automatically have their access to the sewer ponds which is as healthy as you can get.”

Keith Swift,
The developers say they will actually be helping the environment because they will make the area clean.

Catherine Paz,
“I am not an environmental expert, I can’t help you there but just you know from what we have experienced and what we have gone through here in the past 25 years that I have been involved in tourism, I don’t see how.”

Keith Swift,
What is the level of your involvement in the project in the sense that it seems that all the permits, the ECP and that were submitted by the Town Council and not the company that you work for?

Frank Panton,
“Well one permit is indeed issued to David Mitchell on behalf of Sugar Caye Development Limited. That is a permit that was issued last week.”

This is that permit to dredge which begin last week.

Frank Panton,
“Yes it has started already. In fact there are two dredging permits out there. One is for the Port Authority to have a canal dug along the roadside where there is a whole bunch of illegal dumps, mostly building materials. That will improve the area, we will clean up the garbage and the canals will then be planted with mangroves on the sides to make the area far more healthy than it is right now. I will want to say that I will be proud that this project will show other people how to do development.”

Catherine Paz,
“We are definitely not against development. We just want development to start being sustainable. We live on an island, we have fragile ecosystems that support our most treasured barrier reef, the barrier reef is the backbone of our tourism industry and many mistakes have been made, I keep on saying this, and we just want to move forward and avoid those mistakes happening again.”

And in the middle of all this is the San Pedro Town Council which gave more than its blessing to the development. In July of 2008 the Town Council submitted the environmental compliance plan for approval to the Department of Environment. And then in November of last year, it was Mayor Elsa Paz and Area Representative and Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia Jr. who wrote to the Belize Port Authority – asking them to grant a permit to David Mitchell so he can dredge through two parcels of land belonging the Port Authority.

So why is the San Pedro Town Council putting its neck on the line for a private development? Well we wanted to ask Mayor Elsa Paz but she was unavailable. Her deputy Nestor Gomez promised us an interview but then reneged.

And if the name of the developer David Mitchell sounds familiar, that is because it should. According to our archives, on July 11th of last year David Mitchell, through his Costa del Sol Development Company, donated half a million dollars to the San Pedro Town Council for beautification of streets. That date was again July of 2008 – the same month when the Town Council submitted the environmental compliance plan for David Mitchell’s project. David Mitchell is currently out of the country.

Channel 7

#340280 - 06/05/09 07:25 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: Marty]
sweetjane Offline
you know, this reads as ridiculous as a story from the onion. it should be embarrassing to residents how openly & easily their govt is bought, time and again.

66,000 new homes? is there any new water treatment improvements going in? trash removal & disposal facilities? where will all the trash go? will the existing sewage ponds support a theoretical 120,000 more residents? is the island ready for 60,000 new families moving in from elsewhere? where are the jobs for all these new people? if its 4 miles from town, where will the children go to school, and how will they get there? can the average resident moving to SP from the mainland afford to pay $17K for a lot without a house on it?

#340284 - 06/05/09 08:05 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: sweetjane]
Barnacle Offline
the way i read it was there are to be 400 parcles of land divided up.
the 66,000 was how much the sewer plant was designed for and is being 'under-utilized'.

"it should be embarrassing to residents how openly & easily their govt is bought, time and again."

it SHOULD be,, but it ain't. well,, maybe for a second, then they just shrug and go on.

#340285 - 06/05/09 08:15 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: Barnacle]
sweetjane Offline
thanks, barn - i stand corrected on the numbers - it was kinda early here when i read it. sorry.

#340287 - 06/05/09 08:29 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: sweetjane]
bywarren Offline
If that sewage treatment plant is designed to handle 66,000 people, the design must be based on them using the toilet once a month. frown

#340291 - 06/05/09 08:59 AM Re: New Subdivision raises many concerns [Re: bywarren]
SP Daily Offline
That was the figure quoted by the Canadian contractor that built the facility....referring to pond sizes.

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