Coastal development law in Costa Rica.

Decision Restricts Coastal Development

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Decision Restricts Coastal Development

By Rebecca Kimitch

More protected coastal forest and less beachfront development could be the result of a recent pronouncement by the Government Attorney’s Office.

  The office has ruled that municipalities cannot grant concessions for development in forested areas of the Maritime Zone. Though the ruling is not a new law, but rather an interpretation of pre-existing  laws, it challenges the reality practiced for years by municipalities and developers up and down Costa Rica’s two coasts.

            The Maritime Zone is the first 200 meters of land from the high tide line along most of the country’s shores and belongs to the state by law. The first 50 meters are considered public terrain and cannot be developed privately for hotels

, restaurants or homes , through concessions granted by municipalities.

      The recently released Government Attorney report clarifies that forested areas in the Maritime Zone are part of natural patrimony and should be overseen by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE).

      While natural patrimony is not an officially protected area , it “means you cannot built any project that goes against the conservation of the area”, said that Alvaro Ugalde, director of the Osa Conservation  Area, in the Southern Zone.

      Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez explained  that MINAE does not have the power to grant concessions.

     This, in effect, means concessions can no longer be granted in the maritime zone where forest exists, explained Ligia Flores, an expert in the field of concessions in the maritime zone.

     “The report is nothing new, it is just being applied ….and it is absolutely right”, she said , adding it is in sharp contrast to municipalities’ existing practices.

       FLORES is owner of Consultores Turisticos Asociados, which helps developers acquire maritime concessions. She said she has at least 100 clients from the southern port town of Golfito to the northern province of Guanacaste – who are in the process of soliciting concessions and could be affected by the Government Attorney’s pronouncement.


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