More feedback on new LAP for Beachettes area, including Old Towne, Isles Bay and Belham Valley

Below are comments from some Beachettes home owners, published on their specific request.

 

from Old Towne owner

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to provide feedback on the Local Area Plans (LAP) for the Beachettes development including Old Towne, Isles Bay and the Belham Valley. Many homeowners have expressed their disapproval of the proposals to use the lower Belham valley for the mining and export of sand. I agree with them. Numerous well reasoned and detailed arguments against this idea have been brought forth while there have been no cogent arguments made for the plan except that a few well connected people have made their mind up to do so.

There is a huge issue of public trust here. Long ago, the GOM decided to set aside areas for the “expat” community to build homes as way to promote the concept of residential tourism with land use restrictions and covenants intended to reassure that the investments made in Montserrat would remain valuable. Homes were built, monies invested in various goods and services, all in good faith. That investment supported the development of a middle class of artisans, craftsmen and tradesmen. Even with the uncertainty of the volcano, there were and are those who continue to support the local economy by continuing to keep up their homes. To wantonly destroy the value of a hundred or more homes for such equivocal gain is a huge breech of the trust that expats placed in the assumption that the GOM could be trusted to keep its word.

Are the people of Montserrat that naive to think that future investors won’t look at this decision and wonder if Montserrat is a good place to make a commitment? Would any person of common sense make the kind of financial commitment the island needs if they cannot be certain that the GOM won’t act in such a capricious and arbitrary manner? Doubtful.

The sad part is that it really is possible for sand mining to be a “win-win” situation. Options exist that are safer and do not compromise the Belham valley. They should be pursued in place of this ill thought-out scheme.

 

from Isles Bay owner

16 May 2012

We have written many letters to the last two governors, the prime minister and the PPU over the last year. We have been made aware that the PPU is looking for additional feedback on mining in the Belham Valley. We are happy to send our comments,however, to be honest it really should not be necessary! In addition,we will resend a couple of our previous letters. How many times must we point out what everyone already knows?  INDUSTRIAL AND RESIDENTIAL ZONES CANNOT SHARE THE BELHAM VALLEY AND ISLES/FOXES BAY!

The GOM has to decide whether to keep the current zoning in the Belham Valley with our villas and the largest and most beautiful beach on the island of Montserrat or to declare the valley an industrial zone. They cannot have it both ways. Tourism will no longer be possible if there is a jetty in either Isles or Foxes bay and mining in the Belham. There has been information that the Vue Pointe hotel may reopen. While all of us in Isles Bay, Old Towne, Isles Bay Plantation,Salem,etc.would love to see this happen it would never succeed if mining is allowed in the Belham. I cannot help but wonder if the GOM supports the restoration of the Vue Pointe to try to convince us that industry and tourists can share a beach. They cannot. Even if the members of the GOM can convince a few Montserratians,they will never convince tourists to return to a beach where they can watch barges being loaded with sand.

There are covenants regarding the zoning in the Belham Valley that each of us who purchased villas in Montserrat expect to be upheld. If the GOM plans to change the current zoning laws then they should be required to reimburse fair market value of each villa to every villa owner in Isles Bay , Old Towne, Salem and Isles Bay Plantation. In addition, fair market value prior to ANY mining in the Belham, not current values. This amount of money should be factored in to the start up costs of mining. When considering these additional start up expenses building a jetty in the east needs to be seriously considered. The hours of operation for mining can be greatly expanded if not done in a residential zone, allowing for quicker return on investment. It would be possible to ship 7 days a week from the east or from plymouth, which would not be possible in a residential zone.

Perhaps the most significant issue to accompany mining is pollution. The sand mining industry creates significant noise pollution. There is water pollution from fuel spillage and runoff, killing fish, sea turtles and coral. There is air pollution from the dust created by digging, sifting and transporting sand, that contains silica, which is a serious health risk to all in the Belham Valley. The diesel from the trucks, etc. is also a carcinogen. These are a few of the rather significant reasons industry is not allowed in residential neighborhoods. If the GOM goes forward with the current plans outlined in the PDP they will be placing residents and tourists in the Belham valley in harms way .

Thanks to the volcano, Montserrat has the opportunity to develop four industries ; eco-tourism, sand mining, geothermal energy and eventually farming. If placed in separate locals, each industry could flourish, helping Montserrat to recover from much of the destruction caused by the volcano. If the GOM goes forward with mining in the Belham Valley and sand barges in Isles/Foxes Bay, tourism will be devastated. On the island of Aruba, both the oil industry and tourism have enjoyed great success. This has been possible only because as a tourist visiting Aruba you would never know that the oil industry even exists on the island. Montserrat must accomplish the same to realize the full potential of each industry. There will be such lost opportunities if the GOM doesn’t start to understand how critical this is. Many other caribbean islands do not have such opportunities and it will truly be an obscenity if Montserrat does not take full advantage of theirs. If Montserrat becomes known as a mining pit it will lose it’s reputation as “the caribbean the way it used to be”. This would be extremely bad timing as currently more and more tourists are looking for exactly that.

It is rarely the best approach to take the cheapest, easiest way out and the situation in Montserrat is no exception. While there are a select few who stand to profit from mining, if the GOM goes forward with the plans for mining the Belham laid out in the PDP, most of Montserrat will lose.

Sincerely,

 

from Old Towne owner

To the Government of Montserrat:

As we read the Local Area Plans for Old Towne, Isles Bay and the Belham Valley, we noticed that the description of this area was so similar to the description of the Woodlands/ Olveston areas, yet the treatment of these areas planned for the future, is so different. The latter area is planned to continue with wide, green buffer zones, pedestrian links, carefully planned residential growth, protected ghauts, footpaths along roads, all in all, “pleasant and tranquil”. Old Towne, Isles Bay and the Belham Valley, although so similar in nature and history, are going to have heavy industrial mines, haulage roads, excessive truck and machinery noise, dust and pollution. Not a “pleasant and tranquil” scenario for where we live.

Our opinions on the Old Towne, Isles Bay and Belham Valley LAP are:

1.The location of the lower limit for mineral extraction within the residential area is not acceptable. It does not provide an adequate buffer for residents or wildlife. If extraction has to occur, it must be moved further up the valley to above the old Belham Bridge site. This should be the lower limit for any mineral extraction and mining activity, including plant sites, transport, and loading or unloading of sand.

2. The lands zoned “Recreational Use” and “Conservation Area” are compatible changes and consistent with previous zoning/use, but the areas should be expanded and extended up the valley also.

3. Policy LAP 10.6 suggests that another report “Health, Safety and Environmental Management Guidelines for Sand Mining in Montserrat: An Operational Plan for Reducing Environmental and Social Impacts (2012) will mitigate the affects of the mining activities. Where is this report? I have searched everywhere on the GOM website and cannot find it. It is inappropriate for the GOM to state that heavy industry will occur within residential areas and suggest that all detrimental affects of the development and implementation of heavy industry will be mitigated in an unavailable report. This report must be made available along with the proposed Local Area Plan. How can the people of Montserrat agree to this without understanding how the environment and the residents will be protected?

4. A haulage road located along the valley and continuing along the beach as shown on Figure 7.21, will destroy endangered nesting turtles, sensitive migratory wading bird areas and the enjoyment and beauty of Isles Bay for all Montserratians. This is the best beach on the island! A jetty providing onloading, offloading, ship mooring areas, gas and oil spills, will add to the destruction of this pristine and dynamic natural coastline.

5. Any reputable insurance company would be stupid to insure a heavy industry in this area at this present time, due to the continuing worry of volcanic disruption affecting the Belham valley. The potential environmental damage of spills that could be caused by a quick pullout of heavy industrial machinery would be devastating to the area. We, as homeowners on an active volcanic island, know it is ludicrous to try to get insurance against volcanic activity such that we have seen on this island.

Additional Comments :

Government and the sand mining industry have several alternatives to an export facility at Isles Bay Beach.

1. Export only when the Plymouth Jetty in Zone C is available– temporarily stop if/when it is unsafe due to volcanic activity;

2. Develop a safer jetty in Zone C (than the Plymouth jetty) at Foxes Bay or Richmond Hill– temporarily stop if/when it is unsafe;

3. Temporarily use the main port in the North at Carrs Bay if/when Zone C (Plymouth Jetty, etc.) is unsafe– using the A1 road for transport and adhering to the new load limits; or

4. Mine the resource for local use only– not for export.

Please keep the island that we know, “pleasant and tranquil” – good words in your report – Please use them.

John and Pamela,  Old Towne

 

from Isles Bay owner

to whom this may concern in the government of Montserrat –

In learning of the proposals to build an industrial jetty at Isles Bay Beach and processing plants for sand mining in the upper Valley of the Belham. I was very concerned.

I have been part of a family that has owned a home in Isles Bay for the last 25 years, and our parents visited for many years before that. It is a beautiful area that has been developed carefully. The volcanic eruptions have changed much at Isles Bay but nature restores as well as destroys and much of the natural beauty of the area has been restored in recent years.

My time spent there last winter was the highlight of my year. Swimming in the ocean at Isles BAy Beach was the highlight of my day. We mingled with goats, cows, pelicans, fishermen, and families and watched the sun go down.

I can’t imagine why you would want to destroy permanently the tranquil beauty of that beach with a jetty for trucks to unload sand onto barges. Isles Bay is a beautiful natural resource that is not replicated anywhere else on Montserrat. I have explored many corners of the island and Isles Bay has a tranquility, expanse, accessiblity and residential development surrounding it that will be destroyed by industrialization of the area.

It seems like very short sighted planning that may benefit a few at the expense of many.

I do hope that the plan will not become a reality, that an alternative solution such as trucking the sand to Foxes Bay or the jetty at Plymouth will be pursued.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

 

from Old Towne owner

To Whomever it May Concern,

I am a property owner in Old Towne, Montserrat. In my profession I have worked for multiple governmental organizations that strive for better ecological management practices in Canada. I have read through the environmental assessment of the potential mining operation in the Belham valley and strongly believe that it is not sufficient enough to provide an adequate assessment of the environmental impact of the sand mining operation. I know from experience the toll these types of mining operations take on the natural environment and that was not clearly outlined in the environmental assessment. The environmental rehabilitation will take decades to reestablish after the mining operation and that will come at a great cost to the Montserrat economy and community.

Furthermore, as a property owner and frequent visitor to Montserrat I must strongly insist that this operation be limited to areas where property owners are not currently residing. I don’t believe that enough research has been conducted to justify why the Belham Valley is the most viable solution. It does not seem to take into account the economic impact it will have on other industries. By taking out the lovely beach near my home and where others are currently residing, it will take away a large part of the already small tourist industry that exists in Montserrat. The Belham Valley holds a vast amount of potential to help that industry flourish for years to come. The Sand mining operation will completely obliterate any hopes of the Vu Point Hotel and many other beautiful properties in the future that have the potential to once again contribute the Montserrat economy while maintaining it’s unique beauty and energy.

Not only will the mining operation ruin the natural ecology of the area but it will scare off all potential tourists. I know that my family, after vacationing/living and contributing to Montserrat for over 40 years will be heart broken to see this once beautiful paradise turned into a wasteland and will be forced to let go of our beautiful home in Old Towne.

I have experienced the hard times that Montserrat has been going through in these past years. Please don’t contribute to the suffering by allowing a Sand mining operation to take over the Belham Valley.

Sincerely,

Christie

 

from Old Towne owner

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a Program Manager for an international development organization in Canada. I am also a property owner in Old Towne.

I am deeply concerned by the potential mining activity being discussed in the Belham Valley. I am part of a large family who see Montserrat as an important family and community connection. I am concerned that the proposed zoning/land use will severely and adversely impact the value of all residential and tourism development in the Belham Valley area and will also affect the Vue Pointe Hotel and the beach recreation area. I have used that beach space often and it is very important to me that residents and tourists have access and use without any industrial activities affecting it.

As I understand, according to the Montserrat Mining and Quarrying Industry Study there would be an overall net decrease in public benefit to Montserrat if the industry is allowed to operate in the lower Belham Valley residential and tourism area. The negative impact on the villa and tourism economies would more than offset any public gain from sand mining.

If mining is in fact to continue, it should be kept restricted up above the old bridge to Plymouth or in Plymouth itself, including all road ways and transport.

I urge you to take the communications and concerns of residents and property owners seriously. Sand mining is a low employment, low wage industry and will seriously affect many people’s lives in the area. The price does not seem worth it.

Thank you for considering the views of residents and those concerned with Montserrat’s future.

Paula

 

from Old Towne owner

To the Government of Montserrat

As long term homeowners in Old Towne we are dismayed at the planning for mining underway which will have devastating effects on our enjoyment of our home, the beach and the valley in which the mining is to take place. If a jetty, dock, roadway and loading equipment are to move onto Isles Bay for the purpose of mining or transporting of sand, this will destroy any possibilities of our future enjoyment of the area. We suggest mining be restricted to the upper Belham Valley and a route for shipping be through Plymouth, not in Isles Bay.

If located in Isles Bay, the noise and dust from the mining trucks will easily reach our home above the View Pointe Hotel, destroying our enjoyment of the setting and peace we now find there. The beach will be unusable by local residents and visitors, with devastating effects on tourism at present and in the future. The view from a large area of Old Towne will change from a stunning beach and ocean landscape to one resembling a war zone which we presently see up the valley where roaring trucks and clanging machinery eat up the sand leaving huge culverts and ditches.

We have visited Montserrat since 1970, surviving the volcano and changing travel plans when necessary when our home was in the exclusion zone. We have seen the value of our property plummet due to this natural disaster. However we have remained committed to Montserrat where we feel the community consistently demonstrates a remarkable kindness to visitors, generosity of spirit and tenacity in the face of incredible challenges. We have paid our taxes, hired skilled local people to add to the economy, purchased locally to support the shops, and brought many new visitors and potential buyers to Montserrat. It has been with excitement that we have planned our retirement within the next few years on this lovely island. Now to find that opportunity may be dragged from us by mining is devastating.

I believe that the longer term financial benefit over all from tourism will be substantially greater than that from mining in Isles Bay. When one counts the taxes paid, workers employed, money spent on car rental, entertainment, food etc the benefit to the economy is spread out to support all the community. Mining will benefit a few who may get quite rich while destroying the opportunities of many for employment. Residents such as myself will move to another country to find a more peaceful retirement home where we feel the government is interested in our contributions.

We understand the mining will bring in much needed revenue to Montserrat but surely truck routes and shipping can be arranged in an area other than Isles Bay so both tourism and mining can thrive without the loss of the other. If mining is contained well up the valley above the bridge to “Plymouth” noise and dust will be minimized for the residents. With the volcano quiet the transport route could go through “Plymouth” and a jetty be built there far from the tourist region. This would satisfy the mining industry and the residents of Montserrat.

We ask you to respect the wishes of residents, many of whom have remained loyal to Montserrat for decades, and protect the beautiful area of Isles Bay by limiting the impact of the sand mining and shipping in Montserrat to the upper reaches of Belham Valley and to the area of Plymouth.

Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,

Bryan and Susan

 

 

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