ground-breaking ceremony this past Saturday marked the spot for the "largest
hotel yet" on Ambergris Caye, The Avalon Reef Resort. The site, previously
housing 32 units for Casa Caribe, will now be expanded to 242 units with major
improvements in infrastructure, landscaping and services.
A release issued by the Ministry of Budget Management,
Investment and Trade stated that approximately $40 million will be invested by
owner Mike Kelly of Avalon Resorts Group. This group, operating out of Cancun,
Mexico, also manages resorts in Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Panama, Costa Rica and
California, USA. The construction of this project will reportedly employ over
1,000 workers and when completed, over 300 people.
Kelly expressed his confidence in the Belizean economy and his appreciation for
the "close cooperation from government, in particular, the Ministry of
Investment and BELTRAIDE."
As usual, development of this
size raises environmental issues. Some concerns exist over the proposed
conceptual plan for the project. Reportedly two different areas are proposed for
a marina; one being inside the lagoon on the west side of the island. Allegedly
to access this area, a channel is proposed, to be dug from the sea side to the
lagoon. These reports were confirmed by the Department of the Environment who
stated that a Terms of Reference document, which involves the approach, areas of
analysis and reporting required to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment
has been issued to Avalon Resort. Belize's Chief Environmental Officer, Ismael
Fabro, assured this newspaper that everything will be monitored and evaluated
before this type of construction begins.
raised was that of Dredging Permit 76 of 2001 signed by the Geology Department
on August 28, 2001. This was approved despite the recent agreement between San
Pedro Town Council and various departments in the Ministry of Natural Resources
that no additional dredging take place on the east side of Ambergris Caye. Last
Friday, Mayor Alberto Nuñez received a faxed copy of this document which was
issued for "land and beach reclamation only, in front and behind a seawall to
upgrade and complete an existing ten room development." It further stated
extraction of material (dredging of limestone) is not to exceed 8000 cubic yards
from a specified burrow site with the dimensions 500 feet by 150 feet by 3 feet
to take place at a minimum 300 feet from shore. If practicable, sedimentation
curtains were to be used at all times. Mayor Nuñez reported that according to
Geology, if he received any questions regarding this document he was to direct
them to the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Johnny Briceño, who approved the
permit. When mentioned if this was in direct violation of the Town Councils Act
that supposedly allows local government more autonomy, one San Pedro Town
Councilor stated, "The San Pedro Town Council stands behind their original
statement of no additional dredging being permitted on the east side of
Furthermore, upon contacting
the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee, the San Pedro Sun
was informed they had no prior knowledge of this expansion.
This area of North Ambergris Caye is also very close to Mexico Rocks, a popular
and much frequented snorkeling location. According to the Ambergris Caye Master
Plan, "this is one of the few areas with a well organized patch reef between the
coast and the barrier reef." The plan continues to list the long term objectives
and precluding development in this area that includes: 1) construction of sea
walls and other anti-erosion engineering, 2) construction and operation of the
pier type marina of a high density nature and/or for business purposes, 3) the
injection of significant volumes of sewerage into the near shore and immediate
reef areas, 4) the dredging of near shore areas to create bathing beaches or
accommodate piers, 5) the extensive clearance of trees and herbaceous vegetation
from the beach and back beach areas, 6) any other activities that will in any
way alter the sea bed, 7) discharge of any type onto the beach or into the sea.
Local conservation organizations, marine protection agencies and environmentally
conscience individuals have for the past few years focused their efforts on
lobbying government to designate this area as a marine reserve or an annex of
the nearby Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve.
Attempts made on deadline day Tuesday to contact Avalon
Resort Project Manager Steve Payne, BELTRAIDE, or a representative of the
Geology and Petroleum Department regarding the conceptual plan were
unsuccessful. Minister Briceño, as well, was unavailable for comment. The San Pedro Sun will inform its readers of any
additional information on these issues as it becomes available.
Wielding gold-painted spades at the ground breaking were
Minister of Budget Management, Investment and Trade Hon. Ralph Fonseca, Owner
Mike Kelly and his son, Mike Kelly Jr., Office Administrator for Patty Arceo
Naie Sabido, Ryan Lipp and Project Manager Steve Payne.