Proposed mega development on nearby Cayo Rosario raises many concerns
Friday, November 4th, 2016
On the heels of the recently approved Blackadore Caye development, another tourism project has been proposed on the leeward coast of Ambergris Caye. The upscale tourism development is to take place at Cayo Rosario, a 10-acre island densely packed with mangroves and a well-known bird nesting site. Equally troubling is that Cayo Rosario is part of the finalized expansion of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and therefore is within protected grounds. However, investors are claiming that while they do intend on developing the privately owned island, they plan to do so in an environmentally-sound manner.
The Cayo Rosario project is being carried out by a group of investors who acquired the island in 2015 from David Mitchell. Among the investors is previous listing broker for Cayo Rosario, John Turley who spoke to The San Pedro Sun about the project on Thursday, November 3rd.
The project flew under the radar for quite some time, and it was not until the announcement of public meeting for a social survey that residents caught wind of what is to happen at Cayo Rosario. Scheduled for Thursday, October 27th, the consultation ended up being postponed at the last minute.
Cayo Rosario’s development team explained that the consultation was cancelled because adjustments to the plan needed to be made following the approval of Blackadore Caye’s EIA. Instead, a private consultation ‘with stakeholders only’ was held. “In the past, the only time there is a public consultation is during the formal Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) review process when there is a required two week public notice after the EIA is drafted. In this particular case, based on the Blackadore Caye process, the DOE asked us if we would be willing to engage with stakeholders well in advance of finalizing our development plan. The thought is that if the stakeholders are involved only after the plans are finalized its like closing the farm doors after the horse has left the barn,” explained Turley.
He went on to emphasize that the Cayo Rosario development is very early in the process of drafting out the EIA plan and even finalizing a development plan. “With the Blackadore Caye EIA approved it caused us to stop the meeting. The most sensible thing for us to do was to step back and take some time to review Blackadore Caye’s approved EIA and find out what recommendations were made and what were the terms of the Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP). We need to do this first before inviting any public input,” said Turley on the cancelation of the public meeting.
While no formal EIA document is available, draft renderings of the project have been circulated on various social media platforms. It is speculated that the Cayo Rosario development is to consist of 60 overwater cabañas, if green lighted. “There have been several drafts and concepts. We have engaged with architects and are pursuing different methods available to provide utility infrastructure to the island. The primary concern being how to minimize any environmental impact,” said Turley. Some alarming issues about Cayo Rosario’s plans include a submarine pipe routes for electricity and waste through the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. “We have realized that some of the decisions we make will be more costly from a financial perspective but if it yields a better product, and minimizes impact on the environment, then that’s what we are in favour of.”
Cayo Rosario has always been considered a bird caye, since it is home to Roseate Spoonbills, Reddish Egrets, White Ibis and other migrant birds. It is used by traditional fishers as well as fly-fishermen in the sports fishing industry. Taking this into consideration, it is not just a delicate habitat that’s at stake, but the livelihood of locals who have been making their living from the resources surrounding the island for generations.
“As you all know, one of the major reasons we are opposed to overwater structures at Blackadore (aside from habitat destruction) is that it sets a precedent to allow overwater structures in a marine reserve, which is an explicit violation of our laws. This endangers the integrity of all our marine reserves nationwide… John Turley and the Cayo Rosario Development Group are proposing 60 overwater cabanas in the SAME marine reserve that Blackadore is located in. We will not allow our marine reserves to be undermined,” said Alyssa Arceo, who is in charge of Defend Blackadore Caye, a social media group against developments that threatens the marine environment. “These plans reflect zero respect for our environment and our laws. We will hold these developers accountable with the same power which forced [Leonardo] DiCaprio to cancel his overwater structures at Blackadore.”
However, Turley states that the investment team is looking to develop Cayo Rosario as environmentally feasible as possible. “We have had biologists and scientists spend an extended time on the island conducting studies of the number and variety of birds and marine life in and around the island. It’s our goal to see the bird population on Cayo Rosaio to increase not decrease. We are not looking at developing the entirety of the island, we would like to leave a lot of the island intact,” said Turley.
Another investor in the Cayo Rosario Project is Daniel Kalenov. Both Turley and Kalenov are also managing members in Global Diversified Partners and Cayo Rosario Partners Limited Liability Company. Kalenov in particular has raised millions of dollars in the past for several real estate projects in California, the mid-west area of the USA and Belize. But the feasibility of the project is not the only grave concern the community members and tourism stakeholders have, they also question the track record of those involved.
The controversy on Turley and Kalenov sparked on September 17, 2015 when both men were presented with a Cease and Desist order in Denver, Colorado USA. The investigation carried by the Colorado Securities Division against Global Diversified Partners was for the sale of unregistered securities in the state of Colorado. The company, headquartered in San Diego, California and Registered in the state of Wyoming, was used to raise funds for real estate projects. However, it was not licensed in the state of Colorado. The firm had not even registered any securities offerings in the said state. All was unveiled when complaints were made to the Division of Security that Global Diversified Partners was inviting potential investors to educational events in Denver. At the event, the duo was pitching investment opportunities in Belize, and were attempting to obtain investments through seminars. According to the local authorities, the way the company was operating was in violation of the Colorado Securities Act. Kalenov and Turley agreed to the cease and desist order, and complied with the immediate order to stop offering unregistered, non-exempt investments in the state of Colorado. Despite this ordeal, Turley and Kalenova have moved forward and hope to make right at Cayo Rosaio.
“The lead investor had an interest in developing an island property for several years now. All of us in the development team have had a long relationship with Ambergris Caye. So in looking at the available properties that can be developed we wanted something in close proximity to Ambergris Caye, close to existing infrastructure and was large enough to house development. We wanted an area to do a very high end, low density development with minimal environmental impact. That was the mind-set that we had when we decided on Cayo Rosario,” said Turley on how the island was chosen. For now the investment team will continue planning the development of the island and have indicated that all necessary measures will be taken to keep the public informed.
Please help support Local Journalism in Belize
For the first time in the history of the island's community newspaper, The San Pedro Sun is appealing to their thousands of readers to help support the paper during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1991 we have tirelessly provided vital local and national news. Now, more than ever, our community depends on us for trustworthy reporting, but our hard work comes with a cost. We need your support to keep delivering the news you rely on each and every day. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Please support us by making a contribution.Click to Donate