Letter to the Editor: Derek Petersen
Saturday, February 7th, 2015
This letter is in response to Mr. Sam Trucco’s February 2nd, 2015 Letter to the Editor regarding beachfront rights in San Pedro, and in fact all of Belize.
I am compelled to write this response since, with all due respect to Mr. Trucco, unfortunately almost nothing stated is correct with respect to the laws of Belize or in the laws of England by which Belize is still bound by in cases with no Belizean precedent such as this.
Prior to 1939, there was no rule requiring any reservation of coastal Crown Land, but in 1939 a rule was put in place in the Crown Lands Act for a reservation of a strip of land not exceeding 66 feet in width measured from the high water mark along all water frontages for Government for public purposes. When the Crown Lands Act was repealed and replaced by the National Lands Act, this rule was preserved. A related rule was also added which states that a 66 foot wide strip must be left along any leased land outside a city or town and adjoining any stream, river or open water unless otherwise allowed by the responsible Minister.
The question is, what kind of activity is allowed in this reservation?
The answer is fairly simple, and is complicated mostly by ongoing incorrect statements about the facts in the law which I hear all the time. Mr. Trucco says “Belizeans are by law allowed unfettered access to 60-feet of beachfront.” This statement is completely untrue. Since there is no precedent set in the laws of Belize for this, we must refer back to English precedents which stated quite clearly that privately owned land can be reasonably protected and at most, public passage through the reservation can be reasonably allowed. Public passage includes all the public, Belizean and non-Belizean. All owners of privately-owned beachfront property in Belize should consider basic passage through the property a reasonable request as I do. However there is no legal right for the public to stay and loiter nor is there any right for any commercial activity on private property unless approved by the owner of said property. The common misconception about rights of use in the reservation needs to be made completely clear and is the main reason for writing this letter.
Private property is just that, private. Entering on to any private property without permission is trespassing, plain and simple. Loitering or otherwise causing any disturbances or damages to private property is illegal and anyone caught doing so can prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I have long questioned why anyone would think otherwise simply because there is beachfront adjacent to private property. Does anyone without beachfront property think it is ok for someone to come on to their property without permission? I am sure neither Mr. Trucco nor anyone else would appreciate someone coming on to their property unannounced and loitering, or otherwise setting up shop and doing whatever they want. I notice that the vast majority of private property owners have one or more dogs on their property to prevent this kind of intrusion. It is the right of each and every private property owner to protect their property and for those of us with property that includes adjacent beachfront, we should not prevent any reasonable public passage within the reservation, but anything else is by law not acceptable.
With respect to Mr. Trucco’s statements about private individuals/businesses with permanent structures from the water’s edge up, the law allows private individuals/businesses to erect whatever structures are allowed within the law as long as they have permissions or licensing from the government to do so. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, as long as basic beachfront passage is still available to all the public. I would also note that even if this weren’t completely legal, which it is, how many Belizeans would lose their jobs if these beachfront businesses were forced to close? If the main concern is Belizean livelihoods, then I am not sure why Mr. Trucco would want all the hard-working beachfront Belizean workers to be displaced from their employment?
So in conclusion, yes Mr. Trucco, public is public, and private is private, and private property is protected by law. Please respect private property and to all private property owners with adjacent beachfront, please respect and allow passage through your beachfront property as the law allows. If everyone would simply respect one another, we wouldn’t need laws in the first place.
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