By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
The private road which residents use to access Belmont Estate has been closed, reportedly because of a dispute between government and a local landowner.
Lemuel Smith and his family opened up their property to the public so residents could travel between Belmont and Long Bay since September 2017 when the hurricanes destroyed the public road that existed.
But Belmont residents are now being redirected through a considerably inconvenient route to enter and exit the community since Smith opted to close the property Saturday morning, July 28.
Smith told BVI News he has been writing several emails to the Ministry of Communication and Works since January; in anticipation of the current hurricane season, which began nearly two months ago.
He said he voiced a number of concerns about the sea potentially returning to destroy the private road and property which was being used to accommodate residents to travel.
Smith said he used those emails to invite government to have discussions with his family on how to mitigate against any future disasters affecting the road in question.
He told BVI News that government later came up with a proposal without consulting with him or his family.
Flawed and self-serving
According to Smith, government’s proposal is to erect a ‘temporary 12-inch wall’ along the road. But, Smith believes goverment’s plan is self-serving and flawed.
“If you put a 12-inch wall; that does not stop the ocean from coming in and doing what it did again. Twelve inches above the road — the water is going to come over the road, come back in on my land, flood everything out, undermine the road, and everything else unless you (government) put a sea defence along with that 12-inch wall; even though it’s temporary,” Smith said.
“I am not expecting the government to go spend $2 million on that area because I bawling out — no. They don’t have the money and they want to do something temporary. But even while you’re doing something temporary — and I accept that — you still have to make way for water drainage when the rain comes in September/October. You still have to make way for when the oceans come up, you protect the walls from falling down,” he argued.
The landowner said he and his family have told govenment that the ‘wall’ proposal is not acceptable. But, in what can be described as a last-ditch effort, Smith said he wrote to government again on July 23.
He reportedly warned government that he would close his private road by midday on July 28, if either party cannot reach a mutually acceptable agreement by Friday, July 27.
“We met Friday and they didn’t really give me anything I was satisfied with so I said: Look, I am not comfortable with what you are telling me …”
“The biggest part of this thing is the high level of disrespect and disregard. The sad thing is that, after the hurricane, we heard they were making preparations for sea defence for Brewers Bay, Carrot Bay, Cane Garden Bay, Capoons Bay. They did not come down to Long Bay. We were not mentioned so we’re not in the budget.”
We’re considering landowner’s ideas too, says gov’t
When BVI News contacted Works Minister Mark Vanterpool for comment, he confirmed that his ministry’s Permanent Secretary Anthony McMaster has been in contact with Smith.
“They will continue to have discussions to try to alleviate the situation as quickly as possible and then there is long-term plan,” Vanterpool said.
When asked what is the government’s long-term plan, Vanterpool said: “Let me not comment because I don’t have all the details in front of me. But there is going to be some protection for the road that we planned. It was discussed with the landlords of the property. They have some ideas that we are considering and then we will make a final decision going forward.”
Government issued a media release late Friday afternoon claiming the road is being closed to ‘facilitate works being carried out by government to reinstate the public access road’.
It said the road will be closed from midday on Saturday to 4pm Tuesday, July 31.
Copyright 2019 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.