A Project That Could Have Changed Roatan, and Maybe Still Will
The bight was originally named after Colonel William Dalrymple, an English military official who fought the Spanish at the Battle of San Fernando de Omoa in 1779. While Spain was doing its share in battling the English in the American Revolutionary War, the pudgy Darlymple had a bight named after him on Roatan.
In the 19th & 20th centuries, islanders discovered that keeping their boats in the bight would keep their boats barnacle free. “There are underwater springs feeding the bight and that limits the growth of the barnacles,” says Erick Anderson, a longtime East End resident of the island. “That is why they call it Never-stain.”
Capt. Lem McNab of Oak Ridge had property around Neverstain used as a cattle ranch from the 1930s until he sold it in 1960s. The new owner was Grant Hoag, of the JC Penney fortune, who in turn sold it to Erick Anderson in 1991. Anderson reforested the pasture land and PMAIB, an environmental entity on Roatan, funded the effort providing 10,000 young teak, mahogany and cedar trees. “We had horse and motorcycle trails on the property,” said Anderson. “We would find British had chards and pottery; even Paya artifacts.”
Islanders discovered that harboring their boats in the bight would keep their boats barnacle free.
The Neverstain Bight attracted interest from investors in the mid 1990s. A nine-hole golf course was envisioned there, but remained in the planning stages. “So many people come to this island with dreams and now no one even remembers about them,” said Romeo Silvestri, ex-Bay Islands Congressman.
Having a big development on Roatan was going to be a game-changer for the island. Back then it was Guanaja which was the playground of the American rich and famous. Jet-setters like John Kennedy Jr. and Tom Sellack played tennis there and got away from the meddling crowds. Roatan was the bigger island and Hurricane Mitch brought all the attention there.
In 2006 Delmer Urbizo, a young Honduran developer from San Pedro Sula managed to attract a commitment from Westin Hotels that begun promoting the Roatan Westin opening on its website. The master plan called for 30-40 hillside homes, two-story condos, and “Cabo San Lucas style” hotel buildings build on a lagoon connected to Neverstain. “You create a hotel, amenities, gym and you create a community behind it,” said Rafael Fieshter, a builder who was contracted for the project. According to Fieshner the 350 Acre property was sold for $8.5 million paid by Banco Centro Americano. With a development budget of $52 million, this was going to be the biggest construction project on Roatan to date: a Westin hotel with 40 200-400 square meters homes, and condos. The project was going to take seven to ten years to complete. On paper, it surpassed the cost of Carnival Cruise Ship Terminal in Dixon Cove. Unlike other projects, Oceano and Nikki Beach, that started at the same time there was no paved road, nor underground electric infrastructure in place.
As the buildings began going up the trouble began. In 2009 Honduras had a coup and the global financial crisis soured the mood amongst many developers. Ultimately, the project was under-financed and the bank delayed dispensation of payments. Even Urbizo hesitated to put more of his own money into the project to keep things going. “In a huge project like that when you slow down payrolls, you create a wave of not being able to go forward,” said Fieshter, who in 2007 moved his entire family to the island to do the project. “Everybody got burned.” The 980 tons of San Pedro Sula rebar brought in for the project on a shrimp boat flooded the island and collapsed rebar prices. “It was rusty and cheap,” says Fieshter. Over the years scavengers took all the rebar and disassembled other parts of the project. “I’ve seen people take out cement blocks to use for construction,” said Autie McVicker who is developing a property just west of Neverstain Bight. “Ruins. It brings bad feelings,” said Fieshter about his last visit to the site five years ago. The development of this big project away from West Bay and on the east of the island would likely have repercussions on how the entire island would grow. “Once the Westin would be build West Bay would have been developed by smaller developments. It would have brought more money. It would have propelled more airlines to move here,” said Fieshter.
Part of the property has been purchased by mainland investor Jusuf Andani and now a portion of the property, 144 acres, is being sold by Banco Davivienda for $14 million. The last remaining unspoiled bight on Roatan once again has a price tag.