228 lot north river subdivision comes under fire

The San Pedro Sun on February 15th, 1997, received a letter from Robert Kjorlien of the Reef Village Development, Ltd which was addressed to the recent Mayor of San Pedro Town, Manuel Heredia Jr., concerning the previous town board's plan to divide a 100 acres of national land, situated to the north of the San Pedro River, into 271 lots which were to be sold.

In Kjorlien's letter he mentioned several environmental disasters that could result from these 271 residential lots being created in the center of the existing lagoon in the area. He claimed that the lagoon in certain areas was up to 10 feet deep and that those areas might never be able to be filled at any cost. Health issues would also eventually arise since there would be 271 septic systems in the area. Another big problem, claimed Kjorlien, is that there is no access to the lots in the area, as the area is presently bordered on three sides by water and on one side by private land.

Kjorlien went on to say that the recent town board did not have any permits to alter the mangroves in the area, no consultation with the planning department and the Ministry of Housing was done and they did not obtain a mining license for the proposed land filling. Also the previous town board did not contact the Ministries of Fisheries, Health or Forestry about their plans to issue out these lots.

On April 3rd, 1997, a letter was carbon copied to The San Pedro Sun from the Ministry of Tourism and the Environment which was written to the present Mayor of San Pedro town. The letter was signed by José Mendoza on behalf of the Chief Environmental Officer is as follows:

"Dear Mayor,

It has been brought to the attention of the Department of the Environment (DOE) that the San Pedro Town Board has plans to subdivide 100 acres of national lands which are situated immediately north of the San Pedro River. (See attached letter. Attached letter refers to letter from Kjorlien and map).

The DOE would like to verify whether this is true or not. Such project could cause serious environmental impacts in the area, especially the reef ecosystem. Such project must go through the Environmental Clearance process in order to determine whether a full blown Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required. In addition, there are other legal requirements that the proposed project must go through before any work commences.

Please contact the DOE as soon as possible to confirm if such project is still on plan or not. The DOE would like to have a close working relationship with your office, especially in areas of environmental concerns that can affect Ambergris Caye, our natural heritage - the barrier reef, and the country as a whole.

Thanks for your kind attention and cooperation in areas of mutual concerns especially if Belize is to develop in an environmentally sound manner into the 21st century.

Jose Mendoza
(for) Chief Environmental Officer
Department of the Environment
cc: Permanent Secretary, Min. Tourism & Environment; Robert Kjorlien, Reef Village Development; Director of Mines Department of Forestry; Department of Fisheries; Department of Health; Department of Housing; Land Utilization Authority; Ambergris Caye Planning Commission; Glenn Godfrey & Company; San Pedro Sun."

On April 9th, Mayor Alberto Nuñez Sr. replied to the letter, saying,

"Dear Mr. Mendoza,

This acknowledges receipt of your letter of April 3, 1997 concerning our plans to subdivide 100 acres of national lands which are situated immediately north of the San Pedro River.

As far as we are aware, the past Town Board was involved with this project along with Central Government and the local Lots Committee has been appointed by Central Government to continue the project.

I advise you to contact the Ministry of Natural resources to clarify the matter.

Alberto Nuñez Sr.

According to José Elito Arceo, Deputy Mayor of San Pedro Town, in a meeting between the town board and with the Department of the Environment on April 14th, the present town board has decided not to pursue the distribution of the lots and will leave the matter in the hands of the Central Government. He also indicated that the Escalante project would proceed as planned.

In February and March of 1997 people who were interested in the lots made down payments of up to $250.00 per lot.

In a telephone discussion with former Mayor Manuel Heredia, Jr. J.P., The San Pedro Sun was assured the development would proceed. He said the project was initially planned for over 270 lots, the project was cut down to 228 lots on high ground, 208 of which have been surveyed. There is no cause for worry, said Mr. Heredia, "We will proceed with the plan, using proper procedures and obtaining permits. One of his main concerns is the area is served by a ferry . The ferry is not adequate; a main concern is a bridge. The lots also conform to the size outlined in the master plan - 5,000 sq. ft. normally 50 X 100'".

San Pedro Sun

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