Phase 1 of South Beach Belize, which could take approximately up to two years to reach completion, has been approved by the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) on their meeting held December 18th, 2008. In a telephone interview with Martin Alegria, Chairman of NEAC, confirmation was gotten that indeed the much downsized project will go through pending approval from other agencies and whether the developer follows the guidelines set forth through the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP).
After much consultation, research, visits to the site, NEAC has based their decision upon conditions set for South Beach which will have the minimum impact upon the environment. According to Alegria much of the project has been downsized greatly from 1,000+ proposed plot developments to 590. The usual 66 feet beach reserve, which is set for any development, will be kept around the entire South Beach. As it pertains to the Marco Gonzalez Ruin, an additional six acres will be added, which brings the ruin boundaries to over 13 acres. Development of this area will be worked between the developer and the Department of Archaeology.
The access channel, much in discussion, will also be required to possess the 66 foot reserve, and according to Alegria, this will be increased by an additional estimated 100 feet (the details to this have yet to be finalized). These are some of the conditions set for Phase 1 of the development. South Beach will now have to face the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority in order to get approval for their proposed structures.
Questions that remain include the Hol Chan boundaries and any construction that might affect the reserve. This, Alegria states, will be tackled on Phase 2 which gives the Department of Fisheries enough time to gather pertinent, relevant information to present to NEAC. This could happen in the next two years, since Phase 1 does not interfere with Hol Chan, stated Alegria.
The responsibility of monitoring of the development and ensuring that South Beach follows the stipulated guidelines set by NEAC will fall squarely upon the shoulder of Developer Jeff Pierce. However, Alegria did state that a monitoring fee will be implemented upon South Beach. This fee will allow the Department of Environment and other monitoring agencies monies to visit the site and ensure that the guidelines are being followed. Additionally, South Beach will incur a Surety Bond (the numbers are being crunched as of deadline) and this will allow the Department of Environment monies to remedy any damages the development may have on the environment.
Speaking with Pierce he ensured that he will be in full compliance with the guidelines set.
“South Beach is Belizean owned and I, as the developer, as well as my family and employees are Belizean. We love the country and plan on following the guidelines fully in order to ensure the prosperity of Ambergris Caye and Belize in general. We understand the importance of the environment and the sensitivity of the location of the development and as such will work with government agencies and local entities to make sure that everything we do is in order.”
Chairman of NEAC Alegria stated, “At NEAC we are technical. We do delve in the social and economic aspects of it but, at the end of the day, we are technical. Politics are pushed aside and we delve in the balance between the development and environment.”
The first phase of South Beach is expected to take two years.