Being in the center of Belize’s tourism industry, property in San Pedro Town seems to be a wise business transaction for potential investors. Real estate acquisitions of private properties are usually an easy process, however, the sale of government land is not quite so simple. Recently, against the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) consent, two parcels of government property on Ambergris Caye recently changed hands. Residents of “La Isla Bonita” woke up on Tuesday morning to the disturbing news that the Government of Belize (GOB) had sold San Pedro property without consulting with the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC), Area Representative or the people of the community.
Mar de Tumbo has for years been a popular “hang out spot” for families and friends; couples have exchanged their vows and said their “I do’s” on this beautiful stretch of land. However, The San Pedro Sun has confirmed that 3/4 of the access road leading to this beach has been sold to Seferino Paz Jr. of Banyan Bay Villas. All that remains of the road will be a 10-foot wide access.
In an interview with Mayor Elsa Paz, The San Pedro Sun learned that the first time that the town council received any indication that this might be a possibility, was on November 30th, 2004 when Mr. Paz submitted a letter to the SPTC requesting their recommendation to purchase the property. In his letter, Mr. Paz stated: I write to address about my interest in acquiring that piece of land that is north of Tropica Beach Resort and south of Banyan Bay, […] I have recently acquired Tropica Beach Resort and the main purpose of this is to try and protect my investments in Banyan Bay and Grand Colony. […] I am further suggesting that we leave a 10-foot access along the fence line of Banyan Bay for the people to use as a passage medium to Mar de Tumbo. This will help us reduce the current situation of loitering, use of drugs, and hide out for thieves and robbers that prey on the tourists that walk the beach at night. I ask for your help in providing me with a letter of consent and support for the property acquisition in order to see the proposed project a success. This will help me approach Central Government for their consideration in acquiring the property.
On December 6th, 2004, after meeting with her councilors, Mayor Paz forwarded a letter to the Government of Belize, denying any support for the sale; […] it was unanimously agreed that the SPTC will not endorse/support any recommendations for the sale of a portion of Mar de Tumbo. Since, the SPTC will soon be undertaking a beautification & electrification process of Mar de Tumbo Road. The main reason for the impending improvement is that this is the main entrance to one of the few public beaches in San Pedro. In accordance to S.I. 33 of 1991 in which the access was declared a public road and the Council intends to maintain it as a public road.
Mayor Paz then began working on a boulevard for that access road. “We believed that if we invested money in this area and if we started to build something that then maybe it would not get sold,” she explained. Along with her councilors, Mayor Paz began building a boulevard that would include an information booth and taxi stand with tall street lights in the median.
However, on February 28th, 2005, Mayor Paz and Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr. visited Minister of Natural Resources, Honorable Johnny Briceño when they confirmed that the access road had indeed been sold to Mr. Paz and that they needed to remove the street lights.
The San Pedro Sun spoke with Dr. Daniel Gonzalez, member of the San Pedro Lands Committee, and was told that he had no knowledge of this transaction. “I was not aware that this happened,” he said.
Disturbing as this fact may be, Mayor Paz and Honorable Heredia also received confirmation that an approximate acre of land situated in front of the Ambergris Stadium had also been sold. Mr. Briceño told them that this property had been sold to Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Education Marion McNab. However, The San Pedro Sun contacted McNab and her secretary, Miss Cruz, denied McNab’s purchase of any San Pedro property, despite Minister Briceño’s confirmation. As of press time, Mrs. McNab was busy and did not return The Sun’s calls. According to Mayor Paz, this acre of land was already being worked upon. In the end, this property would consist of a football field where teams and youth could practice for their matches and a basketball court, as well. Those plans will no longer be made into a reality now that the land belongs to a private holder instead of San Pedro.
SPTC is now left trying to find legal advise on how to handle the matter. “It is very sad how GOB can just sell property without consulting local government. The money for the sell will not remain on the island it will stay in Belmopan and San Pedro just lost land,” commented Mayor Paz. She added that “the only question left on San Pedro residents’ mind is – What is next?”