I’ve received some mail lately asking me about beachfront property conflicts in Costa Rica, and being this a note-worthy issue, I beleive it’s always worthy of further discussion.
People, both alien and residents in this country are getting privy of how complicated it is to build realestate here. And I stress this point because it’s a problem not only for aliens who buy land here and build homes and/or comercial buildings, but also for nationals who are not familiar with the avatars that these kinds of business carry in C.R. Even government housing projects have gone down the tube because of the endless ordeal that building permits necessarily bring in a country where as Ex-president Jose Figueres used to say: “You even have to consult the maid before you do anything”.
Some american investors have found dissapointment when they bought “Beach-front properties” they tried fencing in only to find that in Costa Rica beaches are public, and that fencing beach property is totaly out of question as anyone browsing the beach has the right of way to walk the beach anytime, and that you can’t build anywhere near the beachfront. To make matters even worse, some unscroupulous real-estate reps and corrupt government funtionaries have even done business with government-owned property such as in Murcielago were they were selling premises where a police academy is located.
Not only foreigners have been victimized by this kind of crooks but also poor people who invested all they had in deals where they found out later that they didn’t even have a legal title to their property. Of course, foreign investors dollars are much more attractive than these working-class heroes earnings, but it’s about the same when you consider that was all they had.
Together with the mandatory Municipal permits for construction, you also need to be entitled to a steady supply of water and sewage disposal. This is another issue that would need another page to discuss it in depth, but there’s a governmen entity called SETENA in charge of the enviromental control issues sorrounding the construction of any kind of facilities, and they too, haven’t been doing a very neat job. So it’s not realy surprising when you see a mob of neighbors complaining about the way some individuals are using the water sources, and where they are dumping the sewage waters. Things have got to the point were famous beaches such as Tamarindo are becoming real cesspools. And the government is expropriating properties being developed were protected areas such as the sea Turtles nesting sites are located.
These are some of the effects brought on by the costruction boom that have gone completely out of control and scrutiny even by the architects and engineers association that says that there’s no garantee that these kinds of buildings will hold up well in the event of a seven degree earthquake in the Guanacaste area.
This construction boom has so altered the face of the economy that the government is proposing a tax on luxury homes that would provide the state with money that would help subsidize low-cost housing projects for the needy (in president Arias’s own words).
During these last few days the news are that a development in Playa Grande that is one the last spawning sites for the Baula Turtles in the world is in the process of expropriation by government authorities. More than thirty owners who bought property there now want more than a million dollars each in the event of expropriation. I remember quite well during the 90’s when this development started, the way they were selling it was advertising that they were building environment-friendly houses that blended in perfectly with the sorrounding landscape so you could hardly even see them, that left the beach free for the turtles to come every year and spawn, and that would leave natural corridors for the species to cross the premises. Fifteen years later the scenario is that the mangrove swamp sorrounding the development has suffered, and that in a beach were more than two thousand Baula Turtles spawned some time ago, they have sited about fifty during the last month. What I find most disturbing about these peoples cynicism is that after destroying a national park they still want to be payed more than thirty million dollars, and so the story goes on.