This morning we went to Orange Walk to follow up on a dispute between the Town Council and a loose affiliation of car dealers. The car dealers use a prime parking area to display their vehicles - have been doing so for decades. But the new Mayor says he's fixing up the park area - and now he says they have to pay.

We got both sides of the story today. Jules Vasquez has the story:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
The Car Dealers in Orange Walk's Town Center were in an uproar today - they have been for weeks because they say the town councils are trying to tax them out of a livelihood.

The issue is this parking area here at the center of Orange Walk Town near the park. Car dealers have been using it for decades - and they have been doing so for free.

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"All of us are here for over 20 plus years - selling vehicle form the park. Nobody can throw us from here. This is our living. This is what we feed our children from."

Jules Vasquez
"Have you all ever paid to park out here?"

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"Never yet."

Now, the recently elected town council wants them to pay thirty dollars a month.

Kevin Bernard, Mayor - Orange Walk Town
"There are these individuals who want prime locations requesting that they have these 9 spots available to them but don't want to pay. I think it's unfair for everyone and residents who would have wanted these areas for parking - temporary public parking - but we decided that we will allow you to use this space but we are asking you to contribute back to the council."

Those who pay get a permit like this - but they say that's too high:

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"We don't mind pay a fee` - we agree to pay $10. That is what we agree for."

Kevin Bernard, Mayor - Orange Walk Town
"We mentioned to the vehicle vendors that $30 was the fee. They are still refusing and they say that it's still too high. I told the council to let try $20. Let's see if that would satisfy them. That was when the council informs me that $20 is too low. We have people paying $40-$50 for vendors that are selling on the streets for a month."

"We have our market people that pay $60 a month. Why can't these people pay at least $30."

They say they won't pay because they can't afford to:

Jules Vasquez
"When you all sell these vehicles you've made some big margins."

Sherwood Wade, Car Dealer
"I wish. I had a vehicle out here - a Mitsubishi Endeavor, I had it out here for the past 8 months and couldn't sell it, I had to sell it to my brother. The amount that they want to charge us is a lot too much."

Darrell Flowers, Car Dealer
"I am not happy with the $30, but I don't mind paying a little bit."

Jules Vasquez
"You are not happy with it but you went ahead and pay?"

Darrell Flowers, Car Dealer
"Yes."

Jules Vasquez
"Why?"

Darrell Flowers, Car Dealer
"I don't know."

Jules Vasquez
"You regret doing it?"

Darrell Flowers, Car Dealer
"Well yes."

The Council has started to crack down by issuing these tickets yesterday for dealers who occupy spaces they have not paid for:

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"If we get a ticket this man that have more than one spot is supposed to get a ticket too because he has more than one vehicles there. He doesn't even business out here. So we are not moving."

The man they are talking about is Joaquin Chell who got more than one - spot - they say he got four, the mayor says not quite:

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"If you look right now Mr. Chell has two spots - actually he has 4 spots but he only brings two vehicle out here today because he already sell the other two. That is wrong because he just start to sell vehicle over here. If you look over there you will see a guy selling old iron underneath that tent there. They don't business out here any at all."

"The way how I see it is that I think the 9 spots already went, why should we pay?"

Kevin Bernard, Mayor - Orange Walk Town
"Vendors and other that have come to the council but we have informed them that they cannot get more than one parking spot. Now, there is a vendor who has come in to pay for two spots, when we found out that he had come in to pay for two spots - he has two operators working for him, one Mr. Novelo and the other Mr. Chell. These are two vehicle vendors that have asked for two spaces - they are utilizing the space and they are paying for the space."

Didn't look like two to us - both cars had the same number and same signage - and it's inconsistencies like this that has the drivers crying foul and accusing the mayor of dodging them:

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"We are trying to call the mayor from this morning to give us a ticket but he doesn't want to come out here."

Jules Vasquez
"Why would you want a ticket?"

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"We want him to face the media and deal with what he has to deal with because he is hiding from nus for the longest."

Kent Flowers - Car Dealer
"Actually we are always trying to get in contact with the mayor but it looks like he is hiding from us. I change his name from mayor to hide because he is always hiding from us. He has up and down sending this one and that one."

Jules Vasquez
"But the town council is right over there - a stone throw away."

Kent Flowers - Car Dealer
"I know, but the man doesn't want to see us. Whenever we go over there he is always in a meeting. From he got into power he is always in a meeting. He is in a meeting right now as we speak."

And if you detect more than a little political tension - you're right. The drivers are mainly UDP - and it is a PUP town council - and it's coming to a head:

Kevin Bernard, Mayor - Orange Walk Town
"We cannot continue to operate in a society where people want to dictate to the authorities what to do. We need to set the rules and we expect people to abide by this."

Jules Vasquez
"How do you all plan to proceed doing your business but you don't have anywhere to do your business."

Sherwood Wade, Car Dealer
"Well no one wants to receive a ticket. That's why we called you guys, we have to do what we have to do, we start with the media and then if anything we have to go legally - hire an attorney to defend us."

Kevin Bernard, Mayor - Orange Walk Town
"Whenever we need to remove them then we will. If they are there right now illegally, if we have to ticket them then we will. But we have to remove them if they refuse to pay."

And all this is just a short term battle, because the Mayor says he wants to pedestrianize the park.

Jules Vasquez
"Have you ever thought that you may have to go and sell cars somewhere else?"

Sherwood Wade, Car Dealer
"We haven't come to that conclusion yet. We are not going to give up a fight so easy."

Isidro Leal - OW Car Dealers
"Jules, if the mayor even decides to move us from here he has to have a designated spot where business are for us to sell and there is none of that in Orange Walk. So there is no way he can move us from here. They are talking fool about moving us from here but they can't do it. The ticket that we have - if we have to go to court to file it then we will go to court to file it. That's no problem, we are ready for that any day."

Kevin Bernard, Mayor - Orange Walk Town
"We will allow them to utilize these space but they need to pay for these space. Until such time that we have identify you a proper location that you can go in and you say this area is for vehicle vendors - wherever we locate them to and that was stated in the letter that they will have to be relocated at some point in time. "

The mayor says he hopes to transform the park into a pedestrian zone within the next two years.

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