And while the UDP is leading on that Commission, their Punta Gorda
Mayor, Ashton Mackenzie is still facing major backlash over an
under-construction gas station on Prime SeaFront Real Estate.
The project had been given a stop order over the summer, but it seems
that too was overcome and, today, construction continues. But the
community isn't backing down. PGTV captured it today and Cherisse
Halsall's has a review:
It's been several months since we've heard from the people of Punta Gorda
but they haven't stopped rallying against the construction of that gas
station on the plot of land referred to as "The Y."
And this morning another protest was staged again as a crowd assembled to
voice their abiding discontent.
Kamela Palma - Concerned Resident
"We the people were asleep for so many years while this land, and paid for
its upkeep through our taxes, because the owner did not pay his taxes and
the town board became responsible and took over from years ago, now all of
a sudden they will now find a way to sell it, which is good but he sells it
for the wrong purpose as far as I'm concerned and the building has started
as you can see here we know that the plans have not been followed properly,
we know that there are issues with this. So we are here because we want it
stopped and we want. This piece of land to become the lounge of Punta Gorda
And while most people share that sentiment and deeply regret that the
seafront public space will be lost, they're also upset about the land's
Mr. P - Concerned Resident
"Four gas stations, four gas stations we have in PG we don't need another
one, the population is too small to have all of these gas stations."
Among the crowd was community activist Will Maheia who once again raised
the town's environmental concerns.
Wil Maheia - Concerned Resident
"Right here you could see it look at the hole right here, right there the
hole that they are digging to put a tank less than 10 feet and it's already
full of water. It cannot be environmentally sound, cannot be
environmentally sound It's crazy and everybody's standing up out here. We
are not against development, we are against unsustainable development."
Another resident told us that the project has already started to affect the
children of Punta Gorda.
Allan Hines - Concerned Resident
"Those guys were spraying the bushes and the kids they couldn't take it
mein, they gotta hold their nose and run inside and say what's going on,
what's going on. We had to come out and let them know what's going on, you
know, don't do that."
And while the children may be at risk this youth was incensed. We got this
scathing message from one firebrand who had a message about regulatory
measures for his fellow townspeople and for the masses.
Glen Logan - Concerned Resident
"The government's failure to sign such conventions are what put us in this
situation so for me it's more than stopping this situation that's happening
here at the Y it's about the entire country we need to get the ILO
convention 169 signed and we also need to get UNCAC on its way. We need to
stop the corruption and stop this disregard of the people. The people are
the power. I just want Belizeans to understand that we are the ones that
elects the government, they are our representatives and we are the power."
Muschamp On Why Not
One Punta Gorda resident who's questioning his officials is former
Central Building Authority inspector Orlando Muschamp.
He says that the town failed to hold public consultations and that he
wasn't given the opportunity to offer advice on the problematic nature
of the development.
And this evening-Via Zoom- He told us all the reasons: environmental,
logistical, and health why the development at the Y shouldn't be
allowed to go ahead.
Orlando Muschamp - Professional Building Contractor
"My main concern is the safety of my people living in Toledo, my people
coming to Toledo, the youths, the older people who are driving, who don't
really have that sense of looking, observing, well they're only going that
way because of necessity to do their daily chores, that's my main concern.
Without the gas station there, without any fence there with just the dollar
sign there is already a dangerous area for any person transiting Punta
Gorda, driving in or out, very verry dangerous and definitely with an 8ft
wall or 10 ft wall, it's like suicide. Now on the intersection into Punta
Gorda that has only a one-lane bridge which is a few meters away from that
business establishment and then it's divided into a Y, you go left and you
go right and imagine a huge fence around that, it's not good for PG. At the
same time we have people who don't want to come to reality to say what
about the other gas stations then yes, I can understand that ignorance is a
pure factor there because the law clearly states that whatever was in place
before remains but from the wya, I think it was in 2001 from here onwards
then the law will apply. Unfortunately speaking from my experience there is
not enough space at this property so something had to have gone wrong
somebody signed off under the table because if there was a public
consultation then they would have heard my voice bringing these problems to
them. So for it to happen and the mayor of Punta Gorda Ashton McKenzie
saying it's all coming from Belize City, everything is Belmopan, everything
is, where is the representation we have in Punta Gorda and I ask myself,
why are people putting their names on the ballot to serve us in another
municipal elections that have no idea of the responsibility it takes to
administrate and govern a community. We go to the Central building
authority when we see that they have incompetence in what they're doing for
us. So they do the inspection and they do the reinforcements, and this is
the case every single action that has been taken out there I don't see it
happening, I don't see it's for real how could you install tanks 8 feet
away from the property line, it's not real, how can you allow a tanker to
come into an intersection to refill these tanks off a main highway, again
the law says you need to be 50 feet away from a main highway. This is not
against the investor you know we must reiterate that, we're not against the
investor I don't believe that he has the full responsibility of what is
happening out there, I don't believe he is at fault, I believe the
authorities are at fault not give him the necessary information that is
needed to meet the requirements for such a project and I believe it is the
responsibility whoever signed off to this project to reimburse the investor
if by chance he would not be successful in his venture."
Muschamp says he will be running as an independent candidate in the
upcoming municipal elections.
In an update to a story from June, construction of a fuel depot and convenience store near the outskirts of Punta Gorda has been halted by the Central Building Authority, following an outcry from residents who raised concerns of public health and safety. In January, a site visit was conducted and several issues of non-compliance with the approved building plans were identified. This week the director of the Central Building Authority ordered the project be put on hold until the developer can adequately address these concerns. The issue dates back to June 2020 when a public meeting was held by residents who disapproved of the planned development.