On Tuesday October 22nd, during a public consultation, residents of Ambergris Caye vocalized their general support of land use planning efforts currently being championed for the community. This effort is being undertaken by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and Belize Tourism Board, as a component of the Sustainable Tourism Program (STP), with the full collaboration of the San Pedro Town Council. The initiative follows on the heels of Cabinet’s endorsement of the National Sustainable Tourism Masterplan last year, which highlights the importance of a national land-use planning framework to enhance destination quality, guide appropriate new developments, and manage the redevelopment of the urban areas.
A vast data collection and mapping exercise has been undertaken as part of the planning process to provide a detailed overview of the existing situation. It is intended that the new plans will grandfather in any existing land use, however Planning Consultant Mr. Monfort stressed that new additions and developments will need to conform to new regulations which will make stipulations on use, height, setbacks and % lot coverage. Similar efforts are currently being coordinated in other municipalities through the Lands and Surveys Dept. who were also represented at the consultation.
STP Project Director Ms. Christy Mastry stated the overall goal will be to legislate the plans in the short term, with the newly formed Local Planning Work Group of active community members, and the Town Council leading the process. Benefits of approving a land-use plan into legislation would include the protection of environmental values, increased space for recreation and public use, improved quality of the urban environment, security of investment, planned infrastructure and access to services. Compared to international standards, the community development standards for Ambergris Caye are currently poor, with limited provisions for recreational and civic use and low percentages of green space for the present population.
The public is encouraged to review and familiarize themselves with the draft plans which will be housed at the San Pedro Town Council and San Pedro library. It will also be available on the STP website in the upcoming weeks.