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Mar 29, 2007

City Council never consulted on massive harbour project

Story PictureConsidering it’s part of a project that involves hundreds of millions of dollars and would radically alter the geography of Belize City, the presence of only forty or so people at the public hearing was somewhere between disappointing and alarming. The public consultation, part of the environmental impact assessment process required by the Department of Environment, was meant to solicit views on the construction of a two-mile long causeway that would extend from a luxury mega-development on North Drowned Key to the intersection of Marine Parade and Hutson Street in Belize City. Following a presentation by the project’s environmental advisor, the floor was opened to questions. Criticisms included concerns over the engineering of the thirty million U.S. dollar structure, the public’s right to access, the possible effect on a nearby marine reserve and its manatee population, interference with sailboat traffic, and a strong belief that the causeway is just one small part of a larger scheme that includes a much longer causeway extending from the new cruise port at Stake Bank.

But perhaps the most surprising revelation to come out of the consultation was news that municipal authorities were clueless about the massive new city about to rise in the old capital’s front yard. Today we asked Deputy Mayor Anthony Michael exactly what the council knows about the causeway.

Anthony Michael, Deputy Mayor, Belize City
“Absolutely nothing, Stewart. What we know about it is just what we are hearing in the grapevine and in the wind. No plans and no drawings have ever been submitted to the Belize City Council in reference to this project. We personally feel that it’s a form of disrespect to the Mayor and the Council, and on a larger extent to the residents of Belize City because we manage the city, plan and stuff need to be sent to us so we could work in conjunction with Central Government and all private business people for the betterment and development of Belize City on a whole, but no plans have been shown to us as a council.”

Stewart Krohn
“Does the council have any view at all on the project in general because you are talking about a very large development just off the coast of the city; are you involved in that at all?”

Anthony Michael
“Absolutely not. We have not supported the project and we will not condemn the project, it is not a prudent way of doing business. Until the business and private investors and Ministry of Environment and everybody calls on the City Council and sit down around a table and present the plan of how it will impact the economic situation of Belize, the infrastructure and job creation with the residents in Belize City, then we will make a decision from it. But we alone will not make a decision. We will have to look at the plan and we need to present it to the residents of Belize City who elected us to look after their benefit.”

Stewart Krohn
“Just while we’ve been standing here a lot of tourism buses have gone by, a lot of vehicles, people will soon be picking up their children from St. Catherine’s Academy. What the developer is talking about is thousands of residents out there and perhaps a whole army of tourists from Stake Bank that would possible connect up with this causeway. At first blush, do you think this intersection is really appropriate for the project?”

Anthony Michael
“Absolutely not. Just imagine you have a forty-foot container going out there to offload goods and coming in here trying to make a right turn right here. It is not feasible, it is not safe, it is not the best location. That is the reason why we insist that they involve the Belize City Council. We could sit down with our Traffic Department, our engineers, and involve the residents to come up with a proper infrastructure and plan.”

The project’s owner, Mike Feinstein, was expressly invited to the hearing but was not in attendance. Approval, rejection, or modification of the proposal is now in the hands of the National Environmental Appraisal Committee.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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