Jesse Cope's house is next door to the temporary ninety day commercial marina located between Coconuts Hotel and Caribbean Villas. The temporary mooring site was put to use in 1992 and has been the subject of much controversy in the surrounding neighborhood. Sunday, April 20, a barge pulled up in front of Cope's house and workers began to sink pilings into the sea bed. When the job was done, four enormous concrete pilings spaced approximately fifty feet apart were left standing in the Caribbean Sea in front of Cope's house. They extend 200 feet out towards the reef.
"I didn't know anything about it until the pilings went in," Cope said. "I thought it was something being done by Caribbean Depot until I talked to Ellis Eiley at the Green Reef Festival that Sunday. He told me that it was done by the man who owns Caye Chapel. He is going to buy water here from San Pedro and he put in the pilings to tie up the barges."
Tim Jeffers of Coconuts Hotel says his understanding is that the owner of Caye Chapel needs water for his golf course. He will be buying it from San Pedro.
A spokesman from the Belize Port Authority, said permits must be issued by the Authority before pilings are sunk into the sea bed. Permission must be obtained from the Department of Natural Resources as well as the Town Board of San Pedro. Deputy Mayor of San Pedro, Elito Arceo said he knew nothing about the pilings. The department of Natural Resources was contacted and also knew nothing of the situation.
"I can guarantee you that they don't have permits from us," said Malika Cardona of the Department of Natural Resources. "We haven't issued any permits for San Pedro."
George Wong of the San Pedro WASA office said that water barges could not be accomodated in Belize City, so WASA is selling from the San Pedro WASA plant. Current estimates are for the sale of two bargeloads of water per week during the dry season that is coming up. According to Wong, the San Pedro plant is producing plenty of water for the town.
Problems at the temporary marina began in 1992 with complaints from neighboring residents about noise. Barges being off-loaded at night and on weekends by heavy machinery caused noise that disturbed guests at nearby hotels. In response to hotel owners complaints off-loading hours were changed to daytime only.
"We've also had problems with transient people sleeping in the area," said one neighbor. "At one time six or seven men were sleeping in an empty container next to the dock. The police did come and round them up but we've had others. That guy who was arrested for indecent assault a few weeks ago (San Pedro Sun Volume 7 Number 16 April 18, 1997) was sleeping on a boat here."
Susan Lala, one of the owners of Caribbean Villas Hotel said that she saw the pilings being placed Sunday and wondered why they were putting posts down. "They're buying water from here?" Lala said. "That's ridiculous. We just had an article in the paper recently about the depletion of our fresh water on the island. How can they sell water from here? That's ridiculous."
Woody Canady of Corona del Mar Hotel remembers the beginnings of the temporary docking area.
"In 1992 when Chico Gomez was the mayor, he came by here and told me they wanted to have a temporary landing. 'Woody, if you'll just put up with it for three months, we'll have it out of here,' he said. That was years ago. Now they are putting down something permanent."
"We figured they didn't have any permits because they did it on Sunday when the town board is closed," said Helen Canady. "It was Earth Day, too."