Development; it has been the main area of contention between developers and environmental groups in Ambergris Caye. At least three developments have become the talk in town after the developers have proceeded to execute their projects. Those developments include South Beach Belize, a development owned by Donald Listwin in the Santa Fe Area on north Ambergris Caye and a dock and enclosed building on the water being erected directly in front of Coco Beach Resort.
An open letter dated August 13th, 2009 signed by Minister of Economic Development Honorable Erwin Contreras states, “this is to verify that Mr. Jeff Pierce has been given the approval by Cabinet to start construction on Phase One of the South Beach Development after all permits have been obtained.” This means that Cabinet has given support for Phase One of the South Beach, once all necessary permits have been acquired; however these clearances have not been approved.
According to the Chairman of the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA) Fidel Ancona, the representatives of South Beach presented the letter to the Director of the Central Building Authority (CBA) Paul Satchwell. When asked if CBA approved any construction, Ancona stated that South Beach did receive planning permission to construct three buildings in the South Beach area from the Director of the CBA in Belmopan. That decision, according to Ancona was illegal. Why? Ancona stated that Satchwell made a sole decision without consulting the members of CBA, which includes the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA).
For the time being Ancona stated that an inspection conducted on the proposed South Beach Site proved that only ground measurements for the buildings had been conducted. No kind of construction has started and will only begin after approval is granted by ACLBA.
Another project which has come under public scrutiny is a residential mega mansion that has been approved by the ACLBA. That project, belonging to Donald Listwin, includes the construction of a two-storey five bedroom main building 8,000 square feet in size, a one-storey three bedroom guest house, 2,200 square feet in size, a caretaker’s house1,400 square feet in size, a manager house with 1,400 square feet in size, two swimming pools, a generator and Reverse Osmosis building, a helicopter landing pad, renovation of two existing piers, each measuring 180 feet in length and eight feet wide and installation of an aerated wastewater treatment system.
When asked about the project in the Santa Fe Area of Northern Ambergris Caye, Ancona stated that ACLBA approved the building plans under three conditions. Those conditions clearly state that;
1) It must be clearly understood that the plans for piers and seawalls are not approved yet by the committee.
2) Listwin must submit a separate electrical plan of the project to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and obtain its approval before construction can begin.
3) Listwin must receive formal clearance from the Department of the Environment stating that it is satisfied with the proposal of sewage disposal, access to potable water and disposal of effluents.
The project will sit on a 4.5 acres land and approximately 15% of the total land will be developed to accommodate the constructions.
In speaking to The San Pedro Sun, Craig Moore from Department of Geology and Mining stated that on Monday, September 14th Listwin received clearance for dredging. Moore stated that the dredging is minimal. According to Moore, the dredging is for barge and pier access and measures 150 feet by 60 feet in one area and 110 feet by 40 feet in another area.
The third project that has come under the microscope is the construction of pier a 300 foot in length with an attached 16 feet by 16 feet open palapa in front of the property belonging to Coco Beach Resort Limited. Ancona stated that the project received the green light from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment since September 13th, 2007.
The 2007 letter of approval stated that the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment approved the application for permission to “manage an existing pier in front of parcel no. 4764 situated north of San Pedro Town.” The pier should not exceed 300 feet long and 8 feet in width. In the letter issued by the Ministry, no reference is made to any structure attached to the pier. When asked why the ACLBA approved the attached structure, Ancona stated that they approved the project “as per sketch submitted to the Physical Planning Section.” When asked what the sketch entails, Ancona stated that the ACLBA did not receive a sketch nor did the Physical Planning Section have one. When inquires were made by members of the ACLBA in regards to the attached structure, the ACLBA was verbally told about the attached structure being part of a “sketch.” According to Ancona, Coco Beach Resort Limited submitted a second sketch which indicated the attached structure. Ancona stated that the ACLBA did not approve the second sketch. That attached structure is already under construction on the pier.