Buildings on Samara’s Coast Must Conform to New Law But There Won’t Be Evictions

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On December 1st, residents of the coastal areas of the district of Samara received notification from the Municipality of Nicoya, advising them that they will have to assess the condition of their buildings and, if necessary, must restructure them to meet the new law, number 9242, Regulation of Buildings in the Maritime Land Zone (ZMT- Zona Maritimo Terrestre).

This law went into effect on June 9, 2014, and establishes that municipalities with a valid coastal regulatory plan (in the case of Samara, the plan in effect since 1981 applies) can keep existing buildings as long as they conform to the plan and to environmental regulations.

The law stipulates that the front of the buildings must be at least three meters (about ten feet) away from the street. Wooden houses or businesses must be at least two meters (6.5 feet) apart, both from the rear and from the sides, so that in case of a fire, the flames will not destroy all of them.

If the buildings comply with the regulation and don’t need to be modified, the interested party must request a concession within a period of six months from the date they were notified.

According to Juan Carlos Oviedo, head of the ZMT department of the Municipality of Nicoya, the law requires municipalities to put things in order, so the first step they should take is to notify residents of the process. However, he dismissed the possibility that the properties will be expropriated from the inhabitants.

“It is a lie that when the six months are up, we are going to go and demolish the buildings.
 Rather, it is a period that is opened for people to come and talk to us and thereby be able to  ask what they have to do to straighten things out,” Oviedo explained.

In addition, Oviedo explained that the reason the Municipality of Nicoya is only demanding these requirements of the coastal district of Samara is because the beaches of Nosara are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE).

“At this time, we have only notified Samara because the existing regulatory plan of 1981 applies to them. Remember that the maritime land zone up to the point of Guiones belongs to the Municipality of Nicoya. Nosara belongs to the National Wildlife Refuge, so it is MINAE’s jurisdiction. For now, it’s only the district of Samara in towns like Cangrejal, Ojo Cambute, El Torito, Matapalo, Bella Vista and others,” said the head of the ZMT.

Distrustful Residents

Although the Municipality assures that they will not carry out evictions, some Samara residents feel uncertain of the legality of their buildings since many do not have money to make the modifications required by law.

Such is the case for Juan Gerardo Cubillo, a resident of Matapalo, who said his income as a traditional fishermen is not sufficient to make changes to his dwelling.

“We don’t know what is going to happen. They ask of us some requirements to modify these structures and, as you can see, those of us who live here are people of limited resources. In my case, my work is fishing and it just gives me enough to live on,” commented Cubillo.

On the other hand, Benedicto Guadamuz, who is the president of the Social Welfare Committee of Matapalo, views the situation positively and assures that they will have support from the Municipality.

“They told us that within a month the municipal engineers are going to come to evaluate each of the buildings and determine whether or not they fulfill [the law], but I think that this is necessary because it is what the law dictates,” Guadamuz said.

TECOCOS Progresses Slowly

On October 19, the moratorium that protected residents of coastal community areas expired. This extension allowed them to not be evicted while considering their illegal status in these territories. However, when the moratorium expired, the uncertainty returned for many coastal residents who hope the Coastal Territories Bill known as TECOCOS will be approved.

On that subject, the lawyer and promoter of the law, Wilmar Matarrita, reported that this project will quite possibly be voted on in a special session of the Legislative Assembly after January 19, 2015 once the legislators return from vacation.