Former head of the Nicoya City Hall maritime-land zone department Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada requested services from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) and the Garza water association (Asada) for David Lesman, who built an illegal ranch in the maritime zone in Garza, Nosara.
The city legal department said the situation was irregular in a statement issued on April 9, which wasn’t published until June 12 because one of the legal department officials was on vacation. Attorney Humberto León analyzed Lesman’s case at the request of deputy mayor Adriana Rodríguez, who was looking for legal backing to demolish the property.
Oviedo, who retired on May 1, confirmed via phone to this newspaper that the request for electricity and water is a task completed by the ZMT department for those who occupy the public space.
The former coordinator said in paperwork sent to the construction control legal department that Lesman “has occupied the land for 20 years.” But, according to the ZMT law, Lesman can’t occupy the land because the title is only granted to those who have been in the ZMT area since before 1977 when the ZMT law was passed.
The analysis also questions Oviedo for processing the request for public services two months and 23 days before Lesman requested land use permits on October 30, 2017.
The former official said he has no ties to the accusations and that he wouldn’t discuss the case because he is unaware of the legal standing and, according to his version, his actions were legal.
“What I know for sure is that people say things that aren’t so. What was done was done by law,” he said.
Everything is fine and there is no problem. I don’t know the position these people have and right now I don’t want to discuss what you are asking about. I am enjoying retirement and people want to keep drawing out this dumb movie.”
The Voice of Guanacaste contacted David Lesman through Facebook to ask him about the irregularities.
The U.S. citizen said that he has proof that he paid the city for the property, but he didn’t send copies of the documents by the time this paper went to print.
“I have all the receipts and all the wire transfers and all the evidence of approximately a half $1 million dollars I paid over the last 30 years in taxes to maintain the lot.” Lesman said.
An Absent Lesman
The legal opinion issued by the city legal department also says that no one notified Lesman about three closure orders.
When the inspector from the construction control department Giancarlo Fajardo toured Garza, he twice found builders working on the building without construction permits (October 31, 2018 and January 1, 2019) and closed it down.
The engineer in charge of the construction control department, Jose Ruiz, also found people working on it for a third time on February 6 and closed it down once more.
On three occasions, officials closed down construction and notified the head of construction, Maikin Obando.
We tried to notify Lesman, but we never found him,” Ruiz said.
When Ruiz sent the information about the illegal building to the ZMT, Oviedo decided to send inspectors once more to notify them about shutting the job down instead of writing them to the addresses that Lesman left when he requested the land use permit, which is required under the Maritime-Land Zone bylaws.
While there are several properties in Garza that extend past the ZMT limit, many of them were built before the maritime-zone law was passed more than 40 years ago. In fact, no resident has concession nor permission to build on to their homes since the city hasn’t made a zoning plan that defines how construction should be done.
Representatives Keep Requesting Explanations.
On Monday, July 1, Nicoya city council representatives took up the agreement suggested by the ZMT committee of requesting that mayor Marco Antonio Jiménez provide a report on the actions that were taken with regards to this property and others that are illegally built in the maritime-land zone.
How is the city not going to act over public property that doesn’t have an owner?” said representative Jhonny William Gutiérrez, referring to Lesman’s property. “It’s like dividing up a park and saying, this part is mine,” he said.
During the session, the mayor said that the ZMT committee didn’t have Leon’s legal opinion in order to perform a complete analysis.
“What the department is saying is that eventually we will face illegal situations, but they didn’t properly notify people about the construction because they didn’t notify the owner of the land in the ZMT,” Jimenez said without referring to the questions facing Oviedo.
“Lesman, which is what we have in the administration, has possessed that land precariously for more than 20 years because there are no zoning laws and I understand that well,” the mayor said, even though the city’s ZMT department has reiterated that there is no precarious permit.
This newspaper tried to contact the mayor via phone through the head of the press office at the city hall so he could expand on his statement and explain what he will do now, but we didn’t receive a response before publishing.
Journalist María Fernanda Cruz collaborated with this news