Municipal officials in the southern San José canton of Desamparados on Monday confirmed that property owners in a protected area known as Mt. Tablazo are continuing construction in spite of cease and desist orders from that office and the Municipality of El Guarco, in the province of Cartago.
The area has six drinking water sources for a large number of residents in Desamparados and El Guarco, and officials from the Environment Ministry’s (MINAE) Administrative Environmental Tribunal last month ordered the mayors of both cantons to refrain from issuing construction permits in the area until the ministry could guarantee the protection of local aquifers.
Desamparados Mayor Maureen Fallas Fallas said officials visited the area over the weekend and found evidence that the farms’ owners are moving forward with construction.
Fallas said that on Saturday, officials noticed municipal no-build signs were removed.
“A private security guard prevented us from entering the property, but we could see that they are digging wells and stockpiling construction material, including roof sheets, sand, cement bags and other material,” Fallas told The Tico Times.
Municipal officials also attempted to serve the guard with another cease and desist order, but he refused to accept it, Fallas added.
“On Sunday we returned to the area and again observed construction, … including an engineer taking measurements. This time we were able to deliver another cease and desist order to Eduardo Alfaro, the legal representative of the corporations listed as the landowner,” Fallas said.
Conflicts between farm owners and nearby residents have taken place recently after a bus allegedly transported residents from a San José slum known as Triángulo de la Solidaridad to the area. According to reports, landowners hope to sell the property to the government for a low-income housing development.
Relocating the Triángulo de la Solidaridad residents is key to expanding the Circunvalación, a belt route around the capital’s central canton.
Housing Ministry Project Director Marian Pérez Gutiérrez denied the ministry’s involvement in the transfer of Triángulo de la Solidaridad residents to Desamparados, saying last week that one of the farm owners had acted “on his own initiative” in bringing the group to the area.
Mayor Fallas said officials on Tuesday will file a report to MINAE’s Administrative Environmental Tribunal seeking sanctions against property owners.