BVI News

Feud between gov’t, Belmont landowner leads to road closure

This heavy equipment vehicle is being used to bar the public from using a private road to access Belmont Estate.

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.

Last-ditch effort

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.

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  1. Pedestrian says:

    Would the road still be open to pedestrians and cyclists? I don’t really understand how closing the road will prevent further hurricane damage to the property.

    Like 26
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    • Mango says:

      If a road is closed, it’s closed. Unless you want to climb over 4 feet of rubble in which case off you go. This is really simple; The road was originally built between the beach and Smith’s land behind the beach. The hurricanes removed the road and replaced it with a wider beach. Mr Smith allowed people to drive over his land because there was no longer a road and they couldn’t drive over what is now a beach. I think that was kind.

      After several months Mr. Smith has enough and blocks the access over his land. Government has now dumped rubble on what is now the back of the beach to make a temporary road where the road used to be. That’s it in a nutshell.
      I suspect that Mr. Smith wants Government to build a better road with a seawall so his land is protected from future storms but personally I can’t see that he should be listened to because the government doesn’t exist to improve the value of private property (and a seawall would be ugly). Plus the fact the before the hurricane the land behind the beach and road was full of junk and mashed up vehicles so why should we pay for him to do that again?
      We should rebuild the road where it was and that’s it.

  2. Retired says:

    There was a similar problem in Apple/Cappons Bay after Irma. In that location the public road was completely destroyed by Irma so vehicles were driving over private land to connect with the remains of the public road near Bomba Shack(east) and Sebastians(west). The problem was eventually resolved this past March or April when PWD provided the fill to form the bed of a temporary unpaved road closer to the sea on public land. Eventually this road was paved but the only protection from the sea is a short length of sea wall that survived the Irma surge. Another bad hurricane or a large north swell could wipe out this temporary road anytime.

  3. Kenneth Dreger says:

    It sounds like the area might need some type of breakwater wall and a stronger road enforcement of materials that will be stronger in a bad hurricane to keep the road together. Maybe the govt. can bring the dredge over to this area and begin some dredging effort and one of the barges to bring over some large rocks and some trucks to bring in some fill then pave the road and have the owner grant an access route for emergency use only…..

    Like 3
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  4. oh yeah says:

    One suggestion is use piles to create a bulkhead. If the piles can go down thirty five to forty feet in the earth no matter what type of sea surge comes it will withstand it and the property behind it will not erode. They use this system a lot in Denmark and other places throughout the world to protect coastlines from the ravages of the sea.

    Like 8
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  5. Snowbird says:

    We have a house in Belmont , Bernard Road. We are coming back to Tortola next month. How will we get to our house?

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  6. vip heckler says:

    where is the district rep? ah only hope he is not behind this now

    Like 8
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  7. Telling ya. says:

    This dude knows his proposal is expensive and will be a struggle to be paid for. Why not accept the tempary proposal? Ahhhh yea it’s because your looking out for your self. Read between the lines. Ask him if he is willing to contribute to a wall that will protect his property?……

    Like 21
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  8. Clarity says:

    If this is a private road which leads to private property, how is it the government’s responsibility to implement the erosion prevention plan? I do see how since the public uses the road, the land owner might seek the assistance of the government to rectify the problem. But what I’m not understanding is how the ownous (both logistically and financially) falls on the govt. especially since he has the power to close the road with a backhoe…

    Like 16
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  9. Ocean says:

    I’m sorry but we hearing from people all the time who want a solution to their property being damaged by the sea, and asking government today to protect it.
    The problem is not the sea – the problem is people building too close to the sea and not understanding that the coast is a a moving, dynamic border between land and water and always will be.
    If you build your castle on sand, don’t be surprised when your castle falls down.
    Man does not rule nature. Nature will do it’s thing, we need to be smarter, acknowledge this and work with it.

    Like 30
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  10. Concerned says:

    How about the community jnite and make a plab to fix the road. Contribute the funds since you all use the road. Duh!!!!

    Like 10
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  11. Resident says:

    I feel badly for Nigel if this drags out. He has worked really hard to get back on his feet and make Smugglers fun again

    Like 3
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    • Zion Lion says:

      Dat man need get outa Smugglers. He had no busness
      settin up in back a der. Time was he was fitin an messin wid ppl now ppl tink he da bomb. Govt need stop him jus now.

      Like 6
      Dislike 2
  12. $350,000 says:

    Where is the man the government paying $350,000 a year to. He should have all the answers, all the solutions and should be on the news headlines at least 3 times a day or else what are you paying him all that money to do. Oo-oo-ah-ah monkey

    Like 5
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  13. What!! says:

    Blocking the road is stopping emergency vehicles , fire, police,ambulance from getting swift access to a number of residents at that end of Belmont. Mr. Smith you want government to fix your property better than it was before the hurricanes? Stop blocking the road!

    Like 19
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  14. Mr Shovels says:

    If this is a private road on private property, how is it even government’s problem? Smh…

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  15. Oscovol says:

    “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”

    All agreements are mutually acceptable. That’s kind of the essence of it!
    And by the way, he doesn’t have a private road, he has a piece of land over which he has temporarily allowed people to drive. Big difference.

    Like 6
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  16. Naysayers says:

    No good deed goes unpunished! Mr Smith kindly let people drive over his private property due to erosion of the public road – and there are several other access route. Almost a year of no action government he’s had enough -well done Mr. Smith, in less than 24 hours government rebuilt a temporary road.

    Like 2
    Dislike 3
  17. HOME OWNER says:

    Since the hurricanes the ministry and public works are doing a lot of s*^t with people land I for one is going to sue them for doing what they want and saying the home owner is dead well I have news for the minister the PS and public works it is time we home owners and land owners stand up to government for taking advantage of us. They help their friends and themselves. I call then from NEW YORK and they tell me they will get back to me I am still waiting but I am not waiting anymore we will meet in the courts and they will see I am alive. My son have pictures before the hurricanes and after.

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