A letter dated March 27th, 2010 signed by Chairman of the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA) Fidel Ancona and addressed to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, copied to San Pedro Town Council, Central Building Authority and Honorable Manuel Heredia, speaks of his resignation as Chairman of the ACLBA. On Tuesday, Ancona released the following where he states his reasons for no longer wanting to sit as Chairman of the island’s housing board:
“I resigned as chairman and member of the Ambergris Caye Local Building Authority (ACLBA) because it is obvious that we have been unable to perform the job that we were task to do. We have been powerless to stop the handful of people who build as they please blatantly disregarding the rules. This situation will continue to exist until the ACLBA moves away from the direct control of the Local Authority and is allowed more autonomy. Please allow me to explain.
First of all, the job of the ACLBA is to review building plans and determine if they comply with basic setbacks, site coverage, densities, and height. Our engineer reviews the plans for structural integrity. The health inspector approves the design of the septic tank system if the building cannot connect to the municipal sewer system. The DOE gets involved if the project if big and it needs a special sewer plant and if it needs a desalinization plant. PUC approves the electrical design for safety purposes. If all is well, the plan is approved by the ACLBA and the owner must build the structure according to the approved plan.
Most people follow the rules and do everything that they should but others do not even bother to submit a plan for approval and proceed to build. Others decide that they will add more to what was approved while others want to cut corners and weaken the structural integrity of the building. These people must be stopped because they are breaking the law and infringe on the rights and safety of their neighbor and others!
As I mentioned earlier, no matter what the ACLBA did, it could not control nor stop these people. We issued warnings! We issued stop orders! We issued demolition orders. Nothing was respected. These folks figured out that if they build their illegal structures on weekends and holidays when the building inspector was not working that they would get away with it with no consequence or penalty. They figured that the mechanism and the political will to aggressively proceed with court action and possible demolition of their illegal structure was absent.
The ACLBA falls directly under the Central Building Authority and it should have a structure similar to what they have. It should have a structure whereby the ACLBA has a professional manager who with a staff of at least two building inspectors and a secretary is charged with implementing the building laws and the decisions of the Authority. If necessary the manager will take the necessary steps to proceed with court action. The manager should have a budget that allows him to do that professionally.
As it is now, the ACLBA depends totally on the San Pedro Town Council for everything. The SPTC collects all of the building fees and uses them at its discretion. They hire the secretary and the building inspector. The SPTC decides if an additional inspector is needed. Anyone with any common sense understands that these employees answer to the SPTC and not the ACLBA.
The ACLBA was unable to follow through with any of its stop orders mainly because of the existing structure. If a couple of people were taken to court for breaking the law and they were penalized, I can guarantee you that the problem would stop.
With more autonomy we should also give the ACLBA a legal Master Plan/Zoning Plan for Ambergris Caye. Those familiar with the proposed Ambergris Caye Master Plan know that we are not using it as a guideline. We are also not abiding with the country’s building rules because we are approving buildings that use a lot more than the maximum sixty six percent site coverage that should be legally permitted.