The case of Santa Rita Holdings versus Reef Village Limited and others went to court on Monday.
It is a dispute over usage of lands along the sea coast in Northern Ambergris Caye.
Proprietor and resident of Santa Rita Holdings and Tabony’s Industries, Gus Tabony, tells us about his company’s efforts to stop rival developers from using his property for their own.
“What we’re trying to do in enjoin is the unloading of materials from barges from front of our beach front property. We feel that this is a private use of the public right of way, and that it’s damaging the sea wall. They’ve destroyed our pier, and the defendants just claim that they have the unlimited use of the sea front in front of our property, in which we are claiming because of our rights to the sea front, that’s why we buy sea front property is to have the use and the access to the sea, that it’s a violation of our rights to that part of the property.
There’s some issues here to what is a private use as to a public use, because yes the public has the use of the right of way.
There’s no Queen’s land in San Pedro, which is owned by the Government, but there is a right of way. It’s just a legal issue.”
“What we would call the beach reserve, the 60 feet?”
“Well it can be up to 60 feet, but in our case its about 30 feet.
According to Gus Tabony, Reef Village’s actions are not permissible despite being tolerated for some time, as they degrade his use and enjoyment of his property, and prevent him from going through with his plans for the area.
But Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana refused the injunction sought, as explained by attorney for Reef Village, Darrell Bradley.
“The claimant in this case, Mr Tabony, had gone to get an injunction against several parties including one of my clients, Reef Village Estate Limited, asking that they be enjoined from using this area.
We pointed several things out to the court including, and I think fundamentally, the fact that this is a case which was originally commenced in 2009, and they had left the case to lie fallow for a serious period of time.
They revised it in 2013. We had injunctive applications at that time. We had several other proceedings occur at that time, and they left it dormant for a while again, and now we are in the latter part of 2014, and they have come to court to move the court on an urgent application for an injunction, and we were saying ‘Well, what is the urgency? You came to court in 2009, and you are not really pressing your rights’.”
According to Darrell Bradley, the matter will be finally settled at trial next January 19 and 20.
But how would a similar situation be handled here in Belize City, say at BTL Park if a barge docked without permission and started to unload material?
Speaking as Mayor of Belize City, Darrell Bradley says the municipality would have moved more swiftly than his opponents did to seek judicial intervention.
But he told us that there are no ethical considerations in his handling of the case.
“That has nothing to do with ethics. I don’t see where an ethical question applies here. I am an attorney at law. I am a professional person. I can bring my experience and insight to bear in various professional settings.
If I would own a private land, and I had observed that somebody is interrupting my enjoyment of that land, through riparian rights interruption or any other means, all I said is that I would think that if I thought that that was an urgent matter, I would go to court the same day or the following day. If I thought that the matter required some degree urgency, I would even allow a delay of one week. I could even allow a delay of one month. I could not, under any circumstance however, fathom a delay of five years.”
Gus Tabony has been a naturalized Belizean resident for over 30 years, and owns the design company Tabony’s Industries, now based in Ladyville.