|The road in question.|
Grand Belizean Estates is a privately owned subdivision project which lies on the west coast of Ambergris Caye. It’s main goal is to provide affordable house lots for Belizeans. The new subdivision, located next to various other subdivisions, is not connected by road to the rest of the island. In fact, the only way lot owners can actually access their property on the west coast of the island is by water. However, that will soon be something of the past, since works are ongoing to have those subdivisions connected to the rest of the island by road. In a press conference held Monday at the Sunset Grill in San Pedro Town, representatives of Grand Belizean Estates outlined the progress made in constructing the East West Road.
But what was intended to be a press conference, turned out into what can be described as a confrontational match when representatives of the Ambergris Caye Citizen for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) showed up uninvited.
Amidst some opposition to the way the road is being implemented, members of ACCSD, along with a councilor of the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) both agreed that the road is needed. “We are not against the building of the road,” commented Elito Arceo, President of ACCSD. “We are in disagreement with the process in which the road is being implemented,” stated a vocal Arceo.
The road, which is actually a SPTC project, is being executed by the developers of Grand Belizean Estates. Most of the road is being constructed on dry high land with the exception of about 200 meters which will pass through a mangrove eco-system located at the north end of Laguna de Mato. In order to prevent major impacts to the environment the section of the road from west to east and from east to west both end next to the eco-system. “We are not destroying the environment,” explained Frank Panton, Consultant for Grand Belizean Estates. “We are doing everything possible to ensure that the region sustains minimal impact due to the sensitive nature of the area,” stated Panton.
While the building of the road was not opposed, concern was expressed about how the barge, which carries an excavator for the project, was transported through the lagoon. According to ACCSD members, dredging was done to move the barge through the lagoon but according to Panton, soil was moved from one area to another area underwater to allow navigational passage. While technically dredging is mainly considered as the extraction of soil from the water bed for land fill, a technical expert at the Department of Geology stated that moving soil from one area to another can be considered as a form of dredging. Panton claimed that taking the barge through the lagoon was the only way to get their equipment to the work area since, “we tried to take the equipment through the beach side, but some people refused to allow our equipment to pass,” stated Panton. “The only next way to transport our equipment was to take it through the lagoon without facing confrontation,” he further explained.
On July 13th, the SPTC granted Grand Belizean Estates permission to move the barge through the lagoon, open and clear the canal to complete the road and construct bridges that will connect the east coast to the subdivisions. The letter, which is signed by Deputy Mayor Nestor Gomez, ended by stating that the matter should be dealt with “as soon as possible.” According to Panton, the barge with the excavator is already at the work site but has faced another dilemma. “Not only have people used foul language and have threatened our workers with death, but they have physically damaged the hydraulics of the excavator causing further delay,” Panton told the press, adding that, “the matter has been reported to the police. Although we asked for no action, we still believe that the people need to know what is taking place.” Panton claimed that they went ahead with the project after the San Pedro Town Council wrote them indicating that they can carry out the construction of the road.
Present during the press conference was San Pedro Town Councilor Juan Alamilla. Alamilla claimed that SPTC was knowledgeable about the construction of the road, but not the details of what the project entails. Grand Belizean Estate has however submitted a plan to the Town Council detailing the project, something Alamilla agreed. According to ACCSD they have not seen a plan of the road, something they claimed was promised to them. Both, ACCSD and Councilor Alamilla asked that the project be temporarily put on hold until a plan and a meeting is conducted with all stakeholders.
“We are trying to go green with this project,” stated Panton adding that, “this is something that will benefit our investment, the Town Council and most importantly the less fortunate people who have their plot of land in the various subdivisions.” Grand Belizean Estate is financing the construction of the road that will include two bridges and several large culverts that will allow for interconnectivity and water access on both sides of the water areas. When the road is completed, over 4,000 house lot owners including those from Colonia San Diego Phases 1 and 2, Ambergris Bay Subdivision and Grand Belizean Estates will have direct access to their property by road. The cost of the project has not been disclosed as yet.