|Pictured is the enclosed structure at Coco Beach, which has been approved by the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA).|
|Letter of Approval signed by ACLBA Chairman Fidel Ancona. |
A couple weeks ago The San Pedro Sun reported on Cabinet’s approval of the South Beach Belize development. In an effort to better understand the issue, The Sun asked the Director of the Central Building Unit of the Central Building Authority (CBA) Paul Satchwell a number of questions. According to Chairman of the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA) Fidel Ancona, Paul Satchwell, approved three structures for the South Beach Belize project. Ancona stated that Satchwell made a sole decision without consulting all of the members of the Central Building Authority (CBA). Ancona further stated that the approval was made without consulting ACLBA and that Satchwell apologized for not having consulted with them. As such, Ancona stated that no kind of construction has started and will not start until the approval is granted by ACLBA. In an interview with The Sun, Mr. Satchwell addressed our questions.
1) Did you approve the construction of the building? As the Director of the Central Building Unit of The Central Building Authority my responsibilities include the review and approval of drawings for proposed structures, so yes I did review and approve the three sample buildings.
2) Was it illegally approved? Definitely not! As the Director of the Central Building Unit of The Central Building Authority one of my responsibilities is to review and approve drawings for proposed structures.
3) Can the ACLBA stop a structure that has been approved by the CBA? The ACLBA like all other Local Building Authority (LBA) act on behalf of the Central Building Authority, but they do NOT have the authority to stop a structure that has been approved by the CBA
4) Does the CBA have any jurisdiction over ACLBA? According to the Belize Building Act 2003, the CBA has responsibility for the entire country of Belize, and the LBA’s represent, and act on behalf of the CBA in cities and towns.
5) Is any member of the ACLBA a member of the CBA? Not at this time.
6) Did you apologize to the ACLBA? Yes I did apologize to Mr. Ancona for not informing him/the ACLBA that the CBA had been asked to review the drawings and determine if the project should be approved.
7) Did you consult with all the members of the CBA in regards to the three structures? There is/was no requirement for me to do so. One of my responsibilities as Director of the Central Building Unit of the CBA is to review and approve proposed structures for and on behalf of the Board CBA.
8) Does South Beach satisfies all the building standards of the CBA? The drawings submitted do, and inspectors from the CBA have inspected the setting out done and that is in conformity with the approved documents.
9) Does South Beach has all their permits in place? The South beach Project has satisfied all the requirements of the CBA for the three sample homes for which they have requested approval.
10) Where does South Beach stand right now? The documents submitted have been reviewed and have satisfied the requirements of the CBA and as such they can proceed with the approved works.
11) Is it true that any project exceeding 10,000 square feet can only be approved by the CBA? Because most, if not all LBA’s do not have the expertise readily available to carry out a comprehensive review of larger projects, it would not be in the best interest of public health and safety for such projects to be reviewed by LBA’s.
12) What is the actual square footage of the South Beach structures? The Newport Structure is 1,540 S.F. and the Palms Court structure is 12,360 S.F.
13) What is the size of the largest project that the ACLBA can approve? The whole issue of if, and how the LBA’s should be limited still needs to be discussed.
The other project that has been of concern is a concrete structure in front of Coco Beach Resort situated north of San Pedro Town. The developers are constructing a concrete enclosed structure that emerges from the sea. The structure, according to Ancona is an attached palapa to a pier. Close inspection reveals that it is not a palapa, but an enclosed structure within the water with its foundation constructed within the water bed. Ancona stated that the ACLBA does not and is not responsible for the approval of “over the water” structures. In a letter date June 4th, 2009 from the ACLBA which was signed by Fidel Ancona and addressed to Mr. Azueta, approves the construction of the pier and open palapa. In order for the structure to be legal, the developers must get the green light from seven entities. These entities are the Ministry of Natural Resources, Department of the Environment, The San Pedro Town Council, Public Utilities Commission, Land Utilization Authority, Fisheries Department and Ports of Belize. Ancona stated that the only role the ACLBA authority plays is to ensure that the enclosed building is structurally sound. In order for the ACLBA to ensure that it is sound, the project must be built “as per sketch submitted to the Physical Planning Section (PPS).” When asked what the sketch entails, Ancona stated that ACLBA did not receive one. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment in a letter dated September 13th, 2007, approved the application to “manage an existing pier in front of Coco Beach Resort not exceeding 300 feet long and 8 feet wide.” The letter makes no reference to an attached structure and sketch.