Land Meeting in Santa Cruz Village Gets Dramatic
A meeting in Santa Cruz Village, Stann Creek, got tense among residents over the village’s land expansion project. In 2017, one hundred acres of land were identified to grow the village. Six-hundred and sixty-three lots have been marked and residents from the village and those from Placencia and Seine Bight say they have been paying monies for the parcels of lands. Streets have been built, allowing the residents to have access to the land. Leading the expansion project is the village’s chairman Christopher Budna and Vincent Scott. Budna along with the remaining members of the village council formed a Lot Committee on the advice of the Commissioner of Lands. There is, however, the allegation that the land expansion project is not being done by the books and several residents voiced their concerns. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.
Hipolito Novelo, Reporting
A village meeting on Sunday in Santa Cruz, Stann Creek, got heated.
Leslie Garbutt, Resident
“The problem is at the end of the day is how do we get our papers for our land. At the end of the day that is what it comes down to. Not this back and forth. This will not help anybody.
Now them two, are talking to each other. He talks a lot of Budna but he doesn’t say it now.”
The crux of the matter is one hundred acres of land situated at the rear of the village. It is part of the village’s expansion project which got underway in 2017.
Christopher Budna, Chairman, Santa Cruz Village
“One of the main reasons why this project started up is because the people here when I became the chairman, they asked me to intervene because there are many incidents that happened back there while people are squatting. They have been many squatters coming in this area who have been grabbing up land and squatting and we want to stop it.”
Santa Cruz Village Chairman, U.D.P. supporter, Christopher Budna, says he sought advice from Lands Commissioner Wilbert Vallejos and the then Minister of Lands, Dr. Carla Barnett. He was told to form a Land and Lots Committee that would oversee the village’s expansion project.
“Mr. Wilbert Vallejos also told us that once we have done that, we must present back to him. So he gave us an appointment, I don’t remember which date we had the appointment but we went back to him with everything set. We took the minutes of the meeting and the entire list of who will be part of the lands committee and how much of the village council are on that board and he accepted it. He also said that we could present our proposal plan at the same time.”
The plan was presented to the Lands Commissioner who advised Budna to include residents of Placencia and Seine Bight Villages.
Vincent Scott, Resident
“All of that went through. We started to do the work. We did some investigations and we found out that in this area it is a very big problem with land and squatting. So every time we working the land we had to be patrolling and make sure that there were not people because the commissioner told us that he needs to know that we are stopping any other illegal things. He said that if we are dealing in the village, we need to make sure that there is no other squatting happening that we can report and stop it. So we had to be patrolling while trying to secure our project. The thing is that if we didn’t secure our project, other people would have come in. So we tried to secure our project. One of the main ways was to put in the streets and the commissioner told us to make sure that if the people get their lots, make sure they have ways to get into their lots. That was the plan and we started to come in and put in the streets.”
Marking of the lots began taking place- six hundred and sixty-three parcels of land.
“It was a lot of work. Right now we are in this project more than a year and a half. So what I did, I set up an office so we can have records of what we are doing because at first there wasn’t that. Then I make sure to set up letterhead and then everything for the village so that we could be working and everybody can see the works.”
But now, Vincent Scott and the Santa Cruz Village Council are spending their time addressing political interference, the primary reason why the meeting was called.
“It was a non-political project. It was mainly to help the poor people. One of the things what the commissioner told us is that he had zero tolerance of political interference in his work and I respected that.”
“Mr. Elroy Foreman spoke to me personally and said this is what I want to do. I said I am the chairman. I don’t think you have the right to appoint who you want to be the lands worker, advisors of land. I think you should ask the people then. Ask the people here if Vincent Scott has done anything wrong to them. They are the ones who appointed us. They are the one who wanted me. They came to the agreement that they will stand up and pay for the surveying. I did not say to them that they need to pay for this. They are the ones who said that we will pay for the surveying of our lands. They did it.”
Forty-nine thousand dollars was paid for the marking of the lots and about twenty thousand dollars spent on the construction of the streets. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.