Unbridled development affecting communities and ecosystems has begun all along the coast of Belize.  From Ambergris Caye in the north to Placencia Peninsula in the south Belizean citizens have organized to demand that development be sustainable and honor current and future residents of Belize and their natural environment.  Two new leaders have emerged: the Placencia Citizens for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and The Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD)

Placencia Peninsula has been especially hard hit with developments, led by two US companies, ioVest Development, LLC, of Chicago, and Canyon Acquisitions, headquartered in Baton Rouge with three additional offices in Florida and Arizona. 

Copal Beach, Placencia Peninsula

IoVest Development is responsible for Ara Macao Resort and Marina at the north end of the peninsula.  Planned on about 600 acres and 1 mile of beachfront are a 400 slip marina, an 18 hole golf course, villas, condos, and single family residences for 1,000 families, a 410,000 sq ft commercial center, and all of the infrastructure necessary to maintain these structures, such as waterways, utility plants, and tenant housing for employees.  Finally, in a nod to the vanishing wild scarlet macaw ioVest plans a scarlet macaw preserve in the gated resort community.  The area of the preserve is not stated on the Ara Macao Resort site.  The Ara Macao Resort will increase the human population of the Placencia peninsula five fold

Chief Justice A.  O.  Conteh stated in a Belize Supreme Court decision on May 6, 2008, “Undoubtedly, this [Ara Macao] is a massive development, not only for the Placencia Peninsula, but for the country of Belize as a whole.”

Canyon Acquisitions has six planned developments on the peninsula, led by developer Marco Caruso, very similar to the Ara Macao Resort and Marina and unusually close as well.  According to Canyon's marketing materials, one of the developments, the Copal Beach Resort will house a casino only 1 mile from the casino at Ara Macao, although the Belize Department of the Environment maintains that no formal planning permission for a casino has been received.  The Placencia Marina, planned by Canyon, will be less than 1.5 miles from the Ara Macao marina. 

Again according to Canyon's marketing materials, the Placencia Residences, single family homes, range in size from 2500 to 12,000 square feet, and, when finished, will cover an area of 36 acres on the Placencia Lagoon.  The Placencia Estates and golf course, a separate development, will cover nearly 2,000 acres.  The Residences and Estates combined swallow 3 miles of waterfront. 

Remarkably enough, Canyon has also begun construction on what they refer to in their own presentations as “Belize's second international airport.”

In addition to the overwhelming size of the coastal resort developments and inadequate land use planning, Belize faces serious problems in the permitting processes.  For example, the developer of Sugar Caye in the north commenced dredging in vital fish habitat without securing an environmental impact assessment, required by national law.  The same developer flouted the law by dredging a canal within the protected buffer zone for the town sewerage ponds. 

Fortunately, local residents, such as those who participate in PCSD and ACCSD, are aware of the risks that the developments pose and serve as watchdogs for their communities and ecosystems.