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.”
And then the mangroves are there also and those will be cut down.
“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.”
The developers say they will actually be helping the environment because they
will make the area clean.
“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
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?
“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.
“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.”
“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.