|A large crowd gathered for the hearing.|
|Some in support included Dean Lindo, lawyer, former politician, and environmentalist and Minister of State in the Ministry of Works, Edmund “Clear The Land” Castro who stated that he wished there were ten more South Beaches and the if San Pedro does not want it, Maskall would take it.|
For three and a half hours, residents and concerned citizens sat and listened to the controversial and much awaited South Beach Environmental Impact Assessment. Held at the second floor of the Alliance Bank Building, what seemed as over a hundred people were in attendance to either support or express their displeasure of the proposed development.
To be built on the southern end of Ambergris Caye, South Beach Belize is the brain child of developer Jeff Pierce. Present for the consultation were members of the Department of Environment, with Maxine Monsanto being the moderator. Once the rules of the consultation were stated, the floor was turned over to consultant Pepe Garcia.
During his presentation, Garcia highlighted the many works which will be carried out by South Beach Belize. The proposed plan showcases two projects which will comprises South Beach and these would be the Residential Subdivision and the Commercial component. The Residential Subdivision will include the following: A hotel zone (30 hotel lots), 16 single family lots (0.4 acres), a hotel and casino complex, 51 multi family lots, 90 villa lots, 39 grand villa lots, 39 mansion lots, 57 bungalow lots, with 390 additional lots and 38 cabanas with 29 of them being above water on the lagoon side. The Commercial component will include casino and hotels, theme park, sports complex, museum, convention center, boardwalk trails, shopping malls, and commercial shops.
The EIA Consultation continued and among the other points highlighted by Garcia were their plans for wastewater management, water resources which will be employed, electrification, and the flora and fauna surrounding the proposed area. According to Garcia dives were also conducted in order to assess the water composition around the area to determine whether the environment might be compromised once the development begins. Garcia stated that their plans of carrying out dredging on the east side of the island have been dropped and an alternative has been found.
Once the question and answer session began, Monsanto once again went over the rules of the consultations and opened the floor. Many were the immediate hands that went up and many were the questions and comments raised. A few of them included: “South Beach is being built adjacent to Hol Chan. Hol Chan is dear to the hearts of the Belizean people. Let us protect it.” “The area and scope of the development are too important to ignore. The mere size of South Beach should make us reconsider whether it should be built or not.” “The EIA stated that there would be over 450 job openings, where will all these people live?” “Mr. Pierce, open a recycling plant. Do something different.” “The area where the alternative dredging will take place belongs to the Belizean people. If Pierce will dredge from there he should pay a fine.” “The area is too sensitive. If we do not protect our environment now, a few years from now will be too late.” Questions stemmed in the ranges of dredging, magnitude, location and national issues such as with additional jobs, come additional families, where will they live? Where will their children go to school? How about healthcare? Policing?
However, on the other side of the spectrum were those in support of the project. Many wearing “I support South Beach” shirts applauded as those in accordance to the development voiced their opinions. Some in support included Dean Lindo, lawyer, former politician, and environmentalist; Superintendent of Police Edward Broaster who claimed that with more jobs there would be less crime; Arthur Saldivar, lawyer; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Works Edmund “clear the land” Castro who stated that he wished there were ten more South Beaches and the if San Pedro does not want it, Maskall would take it. This was received by a resounding, “Well take it” from the audience.
Monsanto went on to explain that the consultation is not the end of the approval process. Letters, concerns, comments and questions can still be submitted to the Department of Environment but these need to be sent by October 21st, 2008.
After said date, the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC) will review the EIA, the feedback received during the consultation and the comments or questions sent in and submitted their final decision in a few weeks.
To preview South Beach Belize, visit http://www.southbeachbelize.com
To review the EIA, visit http://www.doe.gov.bz/EIAs.html