Court Investigates Nosara Hills for Allegedly Failing one Hectare of Forest

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Nicoya City Hall have presented a case against an urbanistic project –called Nosara Hills– in environmental court, which has opened an investigation into alleged environmental damages.

Nicoya City Hall originally filed the complaint in August 2016. According to the court’s press office, the case is still in the investigation phase while evidence is collected.

Although there has not yet been a verdict, The Voice of Guanacaste obtained a copy of the report that the head of the Tempisque Conservation Area’s regional office Gerardo Martínez wrote for the environmental court, in which he affirms that one hectare (2.5 acres) of forest was destroyed.

The project’s owner, Marion Peri, insisted that no trees have been cut down on his property because they never existed in the first place.

“What was there was a hill. They claim that we cut the trees down without any piece of evidence,” Peri said.

City Hall published a series Google Earth satellite images to show that there was a patch of forest on the lot in 2012, and that by 2016 there were buildings and streets. Here we publish a copy of those images.

What is Nosara Hills?

Peri describes the complex as a 26-hectare ecologically friendly project where 12 houses will be built. So far only three have been built.

“The houses have green roofs and they have water and energy-saving systems. We really are an ecological project,” he said.

The environmental problems with City Hall began in 2014, when they requested the first two land use permits, one for agricultural use and another to be able to sell the lots.

That same year, the Nosara Integral Development Association (ADIN) filed a complaint against the development for affecting the stream that flows through Barrio Gutiérrez with their construction excavations.

After the complaint was filed and engineers inspected the area, City Hall issued a resolution that same year. The resolution gave the developer three environmental remedies to fix the problems that the excavations for the terraces created. City Hall also said excavations were done without permits.

The resolution, which was signed by Mayor Marco Antonio Jiménez, and the then-director of zoning Elizabeth Fernández, ordered Nosara Hills to build a canal system for rainwater, create a reforestation plan using native species and finance an environmental education program.

In 2016, Nicoya’s environmental management coordinator Jorge Isaac Esquivel, inspected the property and reported that rainwater canals didn’t comply with the dimensions that the city requested. There were also no native tree species in sight, so the city decided to take the case to the environmental court.

After receiving city hall’s complaint in 2016, the court ordered the Environment and Energy Ministry (Minae) to perform an inspection. The entity initially determined that there was environmental damage due to the felling of one hectare of trees, but the court requested a second inspection in February 2017 so it could issue a definitive verdict.

Nicoya City Hall has frozen the project’s ground use and construction permits until the court issues its ruling.