Presiding at his first town meeting with inhabitants of Ajijic Monday, January 7, Chapala Mayor Moisés Anaya pledged to stand against development near the Tepalo waterfalls and hiking trail, in the interest of preserving the natural landscape.
The Gobernamos Juntos (We Govern Togther) forum was held at the village plaza, drawing a crowd of approximately 150 residents to address local issues of common interest. Anaya was accompanied by members of his cabinet and the city council, and personally replied to nearly every question and issue raised by his constituents.
Bilingual resident Leo Guttman stepped up at the onset as volunteer translator to facilitate communication between Spanish and English speakers.
The first question from the audience was a request for an update on a controversial project for a real estate development in the Tepalo area.
“We’ve said it more than once. We are against this project,” the mayor responded firmly, prompting enthusiastic applause. He added that a session of the Urban Development Commission set for the end of the week would include a review of strategies that could be pursued to revoke permits that may have been issued by previous authorities.
“I know I’ll be sued for putting up legal impediments, but I’m willing to face any law suit to protect this area,” Anaya declared.
While the dialogue quickly moved on to a half-dozen other topics, concerns about El Tepalo and more residential developments were brought up again by leaders of the Chimalli Axixic Viglilantes movement. Hijacking a lengthy period of the session, Alicia Córdova and Lina Doyle pressed the mayor for details on his stance.
“I will do everything in my power to defend El Tepalo,” Anaya insisted. “I cannot undo what was authorized before me. If you own property and obtain a land use permit, it can’t be taken away just because someone objects,” he explained. “But I’m not going to permit construction anywhere where it’s prohibited by land use designations.”
When Doyle asked whether the mayor would reverse a change of the zoning for the Tepalo area from forest and agricultural use to residential use, allegedly granted last March, former Regidora (city councilor) Paola Gómez stepped in to clarify that the modification was never approved by the previous city council.
As the discussion continued, Anaya stressed that the Chimalli group should worry more about matters beyond his reach, focusing on state and federal agencies that have the power to go over the municipal government’s head.
Other issues brought up by citizens ranged from diverse problems related to traffic, street conditions, excess noise and informal commerce at the waterfront Malecón, to lake pollution, litter and trash collection.
Anaya made a point of congratulating residents for getting on board with the local recycling initiative. He asked for the people’s patience while the government moves ahead on tackling solutions to their concerns and complaints.
As the meeting drew to a close, one lady stood up to thank the mayor for holding a frank and friendly face-to-face encounter with the populace, the first of its kind in her experience.