“Point” of Contention
Ooooohhh girl! A battle is brewing and I’ve gathered the gossip… let me spill the tea of the Placencia Point (Pint) drama! You know I like to keep my finger firmly planted on the pulse of peninsula happenings and this is juicy! The most beloved public beach and the village’s fairgrounds for festivals and holiday events sold to a private party?! A cease-and-desist letter delivered to Village Council a day before Sidewalk Art Festival?! A fence going up through the boardwalk and beach we all thought was public property?! Scandalous! And I think we’re only in the first chapter of this melodrama. Here’s what we know (via word on the street; I have never claimed any journalist integrity but just because its hearsay doesn’t mean it’s not true) so far.
I guess that decades and decades ago when Placencia was nothing more than a boat-access-only fishing village with a few families, the property lines and land titles were WAY more ambiguous. And I don’t know what year the National Lands Act established the “Queens Land” or “Crown Reserve” law but everyone knows now that the first 66 feet from the high water mark along the sea is public access and can not legally be built upon or barred from public use.
The “point” as we know it today looked a lot different, say, 50 years ago. Where some areas of the coastline have been lost to erosion, the Point has grown significantly by the gradual buildup of sand from a natural process referred to as accretion. When accretion occurs (new land is formed) the adjacent property owner may petition the Land Department to acquire a title for it. In this particular case, the Placencia Village Council had asked YEARS AGO to acquire this section of space. We’d constructed the new municipal pier down there, moved our festivals and events to that beach, and added the boardwalk. Village Council was politely denied ownership of the area with the excuse for the refusal being that other municipalities had abused the lands they’d been deeded by selling them off and pocketing the profits but that Placencia could rest assured that the land would always remain public domain. Okay fair enough, we can understand that with the history of corruption the Lands Department might be wary to release territory to entities outside of their direct control, BUT HERE’S WHERE WE MESSED UP- we only had their word that they’d never title and grant the land away. How dumb can we be?! Taking it on good faith alone that the GOB would have the community’s best interests at heart. ::sucks my teeth rolls my eyes::
The Beef as it Stands Now
Okay so something like 20 months ago we saw a Remax Realty sign go up and then a little while later we saw some weird new markers get staked on the beach from a land survey. HERE’S WHERE WE MESSED UP AGAIN- we should have made a much bigger fuss over those posts when they were first laid. Instead of just raising eyebrows we should have raised our voices and demanded transparency and answers about the resurvey. Oh hindsight! You perfectly focused yet fickle mistress.
The owner of the adjacent land, a woman who’s family had all that land down there for generations, put in the claim for the accretion to add to her lot. She had her property (the undeveloped land on the Point’s side of the Tradewinds sidewalk to the end where the blue cabana that PAC was in) re-surveyed to include another .4 acres. And it was granted to her! This is where there could have been some palms greased or something disreputable going on because WHY was that accretion granted to her? When for years Village Council had been trying to secure that area and was told “no worries, no worries it isn’t going any where”! This happened under the previous administration so we don’t know if it was an honest mistake or if someone got something out of it, BUT either way, a wrong needs to be righted.
Soooo, this Romero woman who’s family land it was, got another .4 acres added to her parcel and sold it all to an Indian-American family for a lot of money. 1.8 acres from the Shak to the beach in front of where PAC was and the “new” property line included some of the boardwalk and basically out to the Mr. Goby container. Rumor has it that the new owners only have plans to build a single family home down there, and I can’t imagine that they knew the sh!tstorm they were walking (buying) into, but before they were even in the country they had a fence going up and their lawyer sending Village Council a letter NOT to set up booths on their property any more.
Served for Sidewalk Artfest
Warren Garbutt, the VC Chairman, got served the cease and desist the day before Sidewalk Artfest and that’s when this all really started to erupt. Laura Godfrey and Natasha Eiley (BTIA board members and all around baddies) reconfigured the festival map and still pulled off the best Artfest to date, but everyone was well and right pissed off. So, after the festival was cleaned up the Village Council met with the new owners (who were very nice and apologized for the Artfest upset and didn’t understand the use of the space, but would be happy to allow VC to use it in the future, and they haven’t pursued putting up a fence) and they also met with the Minister of Natural Resources (Cordel Hyde) and his Chief Executive Officer (Paul Thompson).
What It Is Now and What We’re Fighting For
So obviously, no matter how ‘nice’ this new owner is- we don’t want to have to ask permission to use the land every time we have a festival or volleyball tournament or family fun day. We don’t want to have to rely on just their goodwill for continued use of a space that should be ours. So we’re (the collective “we” of the village and beyond because this isn’t just a Village Council issue or a Placencia Villager issue, it’s another “fi all ah wi” issue as Eworth is saying- this should be in the national eye because this is a Belize Lands issue, a systematic corruption issue, and a preservation of national land issue) fighting to reclaim that .4 acres for the Point and the people.
Now .4 acres really isn’t that big and I think this can be resolved amicably. We’re not disputing the WHOLE sale; the new owners can still have the 1.whatever acres of the original lot, we just need the bit back that infringes on our boardwalk and festival grounds. Here is a really poorly edited photo to show you what I mean.
The area outlined in red is what we want and the area outlined in blue is what was sold… the yellow area where we overlap is the .4 acres in dispute that we need to reclaim. It probably looks like a lot on my crudely drawn picture but .4 acres is basically 3 basketball courts. It isn’t a ton of area we’re asking for but it is area that is essential for our community and the continued public use of the space.
Village Council has to be very diplomatic and careful on what they say and how they handle the reclamation negotiations, but other community crusaders, specifically Eworth Garbutt, are saying that we WILL get this land and that we won’t move that boardwalk one blessed inch and that we’ll fight this accretion injustice to the very top if we need to. I love Eworth! He’s such a passionate and charismatic guy, a champion of the people and a campaigner on the ‘big’ issues that affect the ‘little’ people: the things that really matter to the day-to-day man, the common folk of the country, if not the politicos or special interest parties. He spearheaded the Saving of Silk Caye and was ready to go to jail over it (and he nearly did!) and this seems to be another hill he’s willing to die on as the saying goes. Personally, I’m an Eworth disciple and I’m ready for the fight if this becomes a public battle. What do you need us to do? Chain ourselves to the boardwalk? I’ll do it! Sit ins, petitions, media blitz, storming the Lands Department Office? I doubt it will come to that, but IT MIGHT (and maybe more) so keep your ear out for news from the Village Council and I will of course update you here when a decision has been reached.
3 thoughts on ““Point” of Contention”
Thanks for the update, we can usually count on you to know the inside “poop” as it were! Now can somebody update us on what’s going on with the parking lot across from the police station (Lake Tipsy during rainy season) and also the mostly unused parking lot behind the old Belize Bank/Las Brisas? The Las Brisas parking lot has been thoroughly blocked off even without a single vehicle in the lot. Previous owners at least allowed access to parking in front of the old bank.
Good ones! I’ll get sniffing along those trails next!
Thanks for a well written synopsis of the situation in Placencia. I look foreward to reading here about a resolution that serves the community first. Love your posts.