To the newcomer, the National Registry can seem like a cross between an Egyptian tomb and a malicious scavenger hunt. Though every piece of land in Costa Rica is supposedly registered there, the institution was built piecemeal.
This means that finding certain information about a property – owner, size, liens, etc. – often includes a trip into the bowels of the building, and a several-hour ordeal of piecing together bits of moldering map and sorting out clues left in pencil on binders full of aging paperwork.
Hope for remodeling this Byzantine system faded after a proposal passed at the beginning of the new millennium took years to make it off the ground. Late last year, however, it finally took flight. And it actually flew a little, according to a year-end report from the National Registry and Cadastre Standardization Program.
Companies have been contracted, the country is being mapped and all systems are go – so far.
The basic idea is to fix several serious shortcomings of the existing system. For one thing, the project will get everyone on the same map. Right now, each property has its own individual site plan (sometimes in multiple versions) and the plan often doesn’t fit with those of neighboring properties.
To solve those disputes and head off future ones, two companies are traveling throughout the country to survey 510,000 lots. Argentine company Telespazio and Italian company Novotcni-Tracasa will begin surveying operations this month in Santa Bárbara de Heredia, north of San José, and on the Nicoya Peninsula, respectively.
Meanwhile, a second key part to an effective national property map – aerial photography of the entire country – is already 10% completed. Once it is finished, 85% of the country will be mapped to 1:25,000 scale, with certain portions zoomed in even closer, to 1:5,000 and 1:1,000.
Once all that information is compiled, another important innovation will get rid of all those dog-eared maps kicking around the basement of the National Registry: a digital platform for organization.
According to the program’s year-end report, the platform is in the final testing stages and almost ready to go. With a few pilot regions up and running, the Sistema de Información del Registro Inmobiliario (Property Registry Information System) will be ready for prime time by June of this year.
Finally, there’s that part that has property owners in coastal areas biting their nails: the project to establish zoning plans in all the Maritime Zones along the Pacific coast.
Once zoning plans are in place, properties can be accurately valued – and the tax paid on Maritime Zone concessions will begin to be felt.
The same will be the case for property elsewhere in the country, after the program finishes drafting a zoning plan for each of the country’s 81 municipalities and completes training of the municipal officials who will be expected to put the plans into action.
That will mean more efficient tax collection and more revenue for municipal coffers, if all goes according to plan.
For the moment, the program is starting with 11 municipalities in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, drawing up the zoning plans there and training personnel.
With the program’s gears finally grinding into action, work is set to begin on those pilot zoning plans in April.