West End Braces for a Cement FutureBY JEFF STRATTON
Not since the RECO riots have voices on Roatán sounded so strident. The plan to pave the West End road created a deeper divide than the one pictured above, and it’s a division that’s been brewing for more than a decade.
In fact, there’s now a petition, a Facebook group, a war of chat-group words, and a lot of raised voices when you speak to landowners in West End village — mostly island families who’ve been living there for generations.
That the road will be built seems a forgone conclusion. That the look and feel of West End will forever change similarly seems fated. For some, it amounts to the complete destruction of the town’s rustic, barefoot charm. Many others see it as an easy way to raise the center of Roatán’s tourist culture to the same stamped-concrete standard of other Caribbean islands.
“In Florida, the road along the coast is always paved,” notes Jimmy Bodden, taking a break from arranging boat tours for touristas. “If they can do it there, why can’t we do it here?”
Just a few steps north, Alvin Jackson wrinkles his brow and worries. The owner of Native Sons dive shop has lived in West End all of his 56 years and is suspicious of not just the changes but the difficulties they’ve brought.
“What hurts me more than the friggin’ cement on the road,” he says, “is that the little town where I grew and raised my kids is seriously divided. We haven’t come up with what we call a happy medium, where both sides sit around and preach until we come up with something we can shake our hands about and walk away.”
Meetings held last month outlined the big changes in store for the tiny hamlet: a new blackwater sewage system, the construction of a 5,000-foot cement road, burying underground utilities, and re-building the community water system. Forty percent of the L71,ooo,ooo project will be paid for by the Roatán municipal. The majority will consist of a Banco Atlantido loan (at 9% interest over the next decade) that approximately 250 property owners will pay off in the form of increased taxes.
Sundowner’s owner Aaron Etches says his family will owe an additional $380 a month. “Am I going to have to raise my prices because my permit fees are going to go up? He [the mayor] said at that meeting he’s going to get our tax money one way or another. I don’t want to inherit debt that I’m going to pass on to my kids.”
Alvin Jackson feels the same way. He’s always owned everything free and clear. The notion of paying off a bank note doesn’t sit well with him.
“What if I try to cancel it now and pay it off all at once?” he wonders. “Do I save nine percent? Then at least I’d feel like my house wasn’t mortgaged.”