A land-use conflict between the Municipality of Santa Cruz in the northwestern province of Guanacaste and a residents’ association in one of the region’s beach towns culminated this past weekend when the association took matters into its own hands – literally.
Claiming that the municipality had illegally approved construction on a site zoned as park land, 50 residents gathered Saturday to tear down fledgling buildings on the lot. Santa Cruz Mayor Pastor Gómez told The Tico Times this week that the municipality is now in the process of obtaining the necessary government approval so construction can continue. Jessica del Rossi, director of the Tamarindo Improvement Association, told The Tico Times Wednesday her organization has no problem with the construction if the municipality complies with the law.
Tamarindo’s Regulatory Plan, created in 1999, states that the 6,000-square-meter lot, located inside the protected Maritime Zone and worth an estimated $3.6 million, must be used as a park for the use of residents and tourists, according to a statement from the Improvement Association. To make a change to the plan, the municipality needs approval from the National Institute for Housing and Urban Development (INVU), Costa Rican Tourism Association (ICT) and Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the statement said.
Nonetheless, work on the buildings, which Gómez said would include government offices and a 100-car parking lot, began in March and continued through May despite the fact that an order to stop construction was made within the municipality itself.
Edwin Ortiz, head of the municipality’s Maritime Zone Department, sent a letter to the municipality’s Inspectors’ Unit on April 6. In a copy of the letter sent to The Tico Times by the Improvement Association, Ortiz said his department’s files contained no information regarding a land-use change and called on Inspectors’ Unit head José Hidalgo to “halt construction immediately.” Apparently, no such action was taken.
Gómez said the municipality has now begun the permit process and was expecting a visit from INVU authorities yesterday.
He added that the site was chosen in part to avoid putting the parking lot in another area where trees would have to be cut down.