Posted: Saturday, June 13, 2020. 3:31 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Will visitors to the southernmost town of Punta Gorda, Toledo District, be welcomed by a gas station in a few years?
It’s a vision town residents are resisting this week, after word broke that the prime piece of real estate on which the ‘Welcome to Punta Gorda’ sign, shaped like a dollar coin sits at the terminus of the San Antonio Road where it splits into a Y, is being converted into a gas station.
Town Mayor Ashton McKenzie has told reporters that the piece of land had always been privately owned and was transferred to an owner from Dangriga in 2016, who has now decided to build on it.
But according to town resident, politician and activist Wil Maheia, to whom we spoke on Friday, the land has always been treated as public because the town maintains it and holds some public events there.
Not only does the town already have a gas station just a quarter-mile up the road says Maheia, but the proposed station location is just a few feet from the seaside and questions pertaining to environmental friendliness are being raised.
After a meeting held on Thursday, McKenzie posted on social media, according to Maheia’s PGTV, that he would issue a stop order, but it appears he had yet to do so as of Friday, as PGTV said it observed ongoing work at the site.
Maheia said McKenzie never appeared at the Thursday meeting, but the decision was taken among residents to push the matter with the Department of the Environment, who he said must explain how they can agree with such a development, and the town building authority, who must approve any plans for such a development and has apparently done so.
According to Mayor McKenzie, such a meeting must have disseminated the facts from authorities and not be “emotionally charged.”
But residents, says Maheia, are very concerned about losing the pristine seafront to a potential oil and gas spill or accident that would damage the waters and recreational area.
Bu according to Department of the Environment CEO, Percival Cho, their concerns are largely satisfied. The land is properly owned; the inspections by the DOE and Fire Service turned up little to object to, including all required distances to the property line and nearest house were met.
And in regards to the community member’s environmental concerns, the Department has recommended underground tanks only that must be enclosed in concrete catchments that are 110% the volume of the tanks in the event of spills.
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