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Jun 26, 2017

Will Government Pay Landowner for Occupation by Bridge?

The new bridge across the Macal River in San Ignacio is almost complete. It will be temporarily opened to vehicular traffic this week and then closed for final touches before a historic gala opening that is planned by the Ministry of Works. But for one landowner in the area, there’s nothing to celebrate. Felix Castillo, who owns parcels 2771 and 2772, is relying on Government’s valuation of the property to be worth as much as eight point three million dollars. But in 2013, the Ministry of Works offered just over three hundred thousand dollars as compensation – an offer Castillo summarily rejected. Four years later, there has been no settlement and the quarry that Castillo has operated in the area for twenty years has been shut down, costing him his livelihood.  Castillo’s Attorney, Bryan Neal, gave us a short history of the matter this afternoon.

 

Bryan Neal

Bryan Neal, Attorney for Felix Castillo

“My client is the owner of the land. The Government announced, way back, that they were building a bridge to move the substitute bridge in San Ignacio and Santa Elena and build a wonderful bridge; a bridge is there now. The bridge is about to be opened, but the problem is that the bridge was built over land that my client owns. Now, back in 2013 I believe, they had offered three hundred thousand dollars or thereabouts as compensation which we rejected, we still reject, because the land has been valued by Ministry of Works people at between seven point five and eight point three million dollars; so how can you pay a man three hundred thousand for a land which is valued, at the lowest, at seven point five million?”

 

Reporter

“And the argument is that there is, according to the Ministry, a set price at which the Government pays compensation for land of that sort, because I understand that the land is being used as a quarry, that people excavate stone and so on from there to use in construction operations.”

 

Bryan Neal

“My client has been doing that for over twenty years. The Ministry can say what they want – the Constitution says that you must – if the Government acquires property for a public purpose, they must compensate you at market value. We are saying now that you are about to open your bridge and cut your ribbon – sit down with the landowners whose land over which you have built your wonderful bridge and settle the matter of compensation; I don’t think that is so unreasonable. When you look at the fact that in the last ten years they have spent over seventy million dollars in compensation, how can they not compensate Mr. Castillo for the land [on which they have] built this bridge?”

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