Belize Association of
Coalition to Save
Since 2000 (or before), villagers in Placencia Village had understood that the property on which The Peninsula Club is being constructed was reserved by the government for lots for Villagers who did not own their own property. (Francis Ford Coppola, owner of Turtle Inn, located in the same area, had offered to buy the land from the government to establish a conservation area, but that offer was rejected, presumably because of the Village lots.)
However, on 13 February 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was entered into between the Belize Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNREI) and Reagan International Limited (principal, Dennis Johnson).
The MOU gave Reagan International the right to develop a portion of crown lands located near the Placencia airstrip for Placencia Village lots. The MOU also obligated Reagan International to identify and obtain a contractual commitment from a "Private Developer" to develop the area where the Peninsula Club is now under construction - the very property Placencia Villagers understood to be the land reserved for expansion of Village lots for Villagers.
Now, Villagers were relegated to a less desirable area adjacent to the Placencia airstrip. Further, the MOU explicitly named the private developer that the MOU obligated Reagan International "to identify" as Seaview Southern Acquisitions Ltd, with principals as Diane Bulman (a Canadian who previously developed Chabil Mar Villas) AND Dennis Johnson, the very same Dennis Johnson who entered into the MOU as principal of Reagan International!
The MOU further gave Reagan International (Dennis Johnson) the right to co-manage and co-develop the private Peninsula Club portion of the development (presumably the portion of the development where the real money was and is). In return, the MOU obligated Reagan International to pay for the surveys for both components of the development, lay-out planning, the EIA (more on that later) and engineering, but only up to BZ$150,000, with an obligation to spend up to another BZ$150,000 for direct improvements costs for the public component of the development.
The purchase agreement for the crown lands for the both the public and private development components was supposed to be attached to the MOU, but has never surfaced. Nor has the approval letter for the development from the Placencia Village Council and the Placencia Lots Committee that was also supposed to be attached to the MOU.
Somehow, word leaked out to the Placencia Village public that something was afoot (as it always seems to do), and a public protest was organized by Village Council Chairman, Brian Yearwood, who claimed opposition to the project.
A public protest (or two) was organized by Yearwood. (Television interview of Yearwood shown at left.)
Some public opposition notwithstanding (no one at this point really understood what was going down), on 27 September 2007, Dennis Johnson, as General Manager for the Peninsula Club, and the Department of the Environment signed an Environmental Compliance Plan for the public and private development components, without the benefit of an EIA, or even a Limited Level Environmental Study, without public consultation, and despite environmental impact assessment regulations that mandate a full EIA when:
The ECP for the Peninsula Club project specifically authorizes The Peninsula Club of Belize to dredge 316,157 cubic yard of material and to fill 66.44 acres of land (Section 1.0 of the ECP). Clearly, this means that they are:
The Peninsula Club of Belize was also given authority to construct a 9.43 acre marina with 50 slips to accommodate 100 boats and to construct 20.91 acres of canals, presumably diverting water courses and modifying stream flows, also requiring an EIA under Section 4(a) of Schedule I of the EIA regulations.
DOE completely ignored any and all attempts to obtain an explanation for the mandatory EIA requirement being waived. Work began on the construction of the private portion of the project fairly quickly.
However, the public portion lagged behind and ran afoul of a mangrove moratorium put into place by the new UDP government in February 2008. The moratorium explicitly prohibited removal of any mangrove from February to October 2008, even if a mangrove alteration permit had already been obtained.Through the concerted efforts of several Placencia residents, enforcement of the moratorium eventually stopped the public portion of the Peninsula Club project (even though DOE claimed not to know anything about the moratorium).
The private portion continued to move along, having completely destroyed all mangroves on the property well ahead of the enactment of the mangrove moratorium.
But, trouble in paradise, because on 18 December 2008, the following email was sent to all members of the Placencia chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association on behalf of Diane Bulman:
Placencia Tourism Center [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Enter Karim Berges, principal of a company called Crimson Development, the 2008 UDP campaign manager, and currently a Director of the Belize Border Management Agency and the Development Finance Corporation.
On 3 July 2009, Crimson Development was authorized by DOE to continue development of the Placencia Village portion of the development, on the same terms and conditions and the Peninsula Club Environmental Compliance Plan approved for Bulman and Johnson.
Enter Melvin Hulse, Area Representative for Stann Creek West, who was determined that the determined that the new Village lots would number 191 instead of the approved 161 lots. And the story just gets better. See this Website under Crimson Park for more information.
Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development