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May 15, 2014

A land dispute escalates in Unitedville

There is a developing land controversy in the community of Unitedville. The Government of Belize has given five acres of land in the community to Bernadette Fishcher. Those five acres form part of a compensation package, since Fischer’s family donated a small piece of land which is being used for the water reservoir. So far so good, but there’s one glitch. Apparently, nobody in the Lands Department figured it was important enough to check if the five acres was occupied. And it is…very much so. In fact, the land was divided up into twenty-six house lots in 2001, and since then various families have made their homes there. An eviction notice was served on the residents in 2011, and they ignored it. But the matter has taken on some urgency, since Fischer has turned to the courts, and the hearing is scheduled for Friday. Mike Rudon was in Unitedville and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The five acre parcel in Unitedville is fronted by the George Price Highway and stretches back. All of it is developed. Families have built homes, planted trees and opened businesses there. They did so on the authorization of then Area representative Agripino Cawich. He authorized the survey and the Village Council handed out the twenty-six lots.

 

Anna Marie Williams Sutton

Anna Marie Williams Sutton, Unitedville Resident

“In 2001, I went and Mr. Agripino Cawich gave me permission to survey a lot in this area, but it was five acres but I told him Mr. Agripino, let’s just survey the whole five acres and give out lots for people.”

 

Carla Caretela, Unitedville Resident

“I neva have no land, and I went to the Chairman and he tell me that they were giving out land to the back here, so I tell ah if I could get piece and he tell me yes. He seh all I have to do is pay one hundred and sixty-five dollars and when I gawn to them they give me a receipt and they tell me it’s the last piece of land so I tell them I will take it.”

 

All the residents have receipts for payments they made to the Village Council for the right to the lots. The families developed their properties, and today we found large, established homes and ever cement structures.

 

Carla Caretela

“I mi have to chop down the whole ah this…da mi lone cohune ridge. And when we done chop it, we move wi house and we come and wi started to plant and stuff. I also used to have some help on weekends…a Mennonite lady from Spanish Lookout used to come and help me chop.”

 

But it was never registered at the Lands Department. And sometime over the course of the years, G.O.B. allegedly gave the five acre parcel, block two six nine zero, to Bernadette Fischer. Her family donated this small piece of land on which the water reservoir was built. According to this eviction notice, the five acres is compensation for that parcel.

 

Anna Marie Williams Sutton

“I got the eviction notice like a week into January…I think it was the eighth of January 2011 and I find out that everybody that was living on this parcel got an eviction notice right. So all of us got together and took it to Mr. Vallejos, and Mr. Vallejos said this cannot happen…that they didn’t even know that this parcel of land was occupied, and I say how come you don’t know. It has been surveyed but not registered, and you guys had sent people out here already to inspect. He said well I’ll send another inspection guy out here. They did send two other people from lands to inspect and they came and they inspect and this land is occupied and developed.”

 

Carla Caretela

Carla Caretela

“I ker it straight to the Commissioner of Lands and I show him. And he seh no that could neva happen. He seh dat young lady come and tell us a lie because she bring a map with no cement pillars on it. That’s why they give her. It looks like they give her the permission to get the land. Because they neva come and inspect the land either to see if anyone is on it.”

 

Today the families are extremely concerned. They have received word that Fischer is taking one of the residents to court for putting a house on the five acre property. They are afraid that the Court will be misled into handing over the entire five acre parcel. That, they say, would be unacceptable.

 

Carla Caretela

“We no wah move. I know I no wah move. Because I know I neva come as a squatter. I get this from the Chairman. So I neva come and squat illegally.

 

Anna Marie Williams Sutton

“I am not moving. I have a business established here and I am not moving.”

 

The case is being heard in San Ignacio on Friday morning. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

We tried to reach to reach commissioner of lands, Wilbert Vallejos, for comment, but we got no response.

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2 Responses for “A land dispute escalates in Unitedville”

  1. Louisville, Ky. says:

    Why would tax payers’ money be wasted in the courts on a straight forward, cut and dried issue like this?
    It seems to me, an error on the part of the lands department to not have the parcel registered as lawfully subdivided and issued.
    Also, why would the new land Owner go through all this hassle? Can’t she see the place is occupied and it appears the authorities made a genuine mistake?

  2. CEO says:

    Can anything get done in Belize in an organized and correct manner without drama?

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