For years now, people in the maritime land zone of Costa Rica’s coasts have continued with their lives under the constant awareness that their time there could be limited, since Costa Rica’s constitutional court ruled that evictions must be carried out. The presidential moratorium granted to those in the maritime zone is in effect until October 2014, but beyond that the future is uncertain, so no new constructions have been permitted.
That’s why neighbors of Garza Beach were surprised to see a new business opening, land being cleaned and a sign posted announcing a condominium project. They wrote to The Voice to ask if anything had changed legally to allow these activities.
We investigated and the answer, basically, is that nothing has changed but there are exceptions to every rule.
The Maritime Land Zone Law 6043, which went into effect in 1977, stipulates that the first 200 meters of coastal lands from the high tide mark are considered public land, and no constructions are permitted within the first 50 meters. The next 150 meters can be concessioned for specified periods of time but cannot be owned.
There are a few exceptions to the law, however, as some properties were legally titled before 1973, as is the case with the property on Garza Beach where the former Hotel Villagio used to be, according to Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada, coordinator of the maritime land zone office of the Municipality of Nicoya.
Properties titled prior to 1973 can be sold and transferred, and the 200-meter maritime zone restrictions do not apply in these cases, although they still have to respect the 50-meter public zone, explained Oviedo.
The property is located after the center of Garza in the direction of Nosara, at the end of the road to the left, past Soda Doña Ana and the Futbol 5 field, and a sign is now posted at the property announcing “Ocean View Las Garzas Condominium, coming here soon”.
The luxury project proposes to build three five-story buildings of apartments and penthouses, 90 units total, with a contemporary style, swimming pool, garden areas and a water treatment plant.
It is unusual to find five-story buildings in this area; however The Voice consulted the municipal engineering department and was told that since Garza does not have a regulatory plan to limit building heights, the main consideration would be for the construction plans to adhere to the seismic code.
Regardless, according to Rafael Angel Fallas Garbanzo, representatives of the investors for the project, at this point it is just a possibility that could be built in the next two years. They have applied at the municipality for permission to demolish the existing buildings, many of which were damaged by the earthquake.
Regarding businesses operating in the maritime zone of Garza, Oviedo said that in light of the moratorium, the municipality has been tolerant, although he reiterated that no new constructions or new business permits are allowed.
Ex Bar Barco del Amor in Garza Has Maritime Permit
In reference to Barco del Amor, previously a bar and restaurant that reopened as a soda and macrobiotic store in December, Oviedo said that existing business permits are still valid until the moratorium ends, as long as the permit is being paid for. “They can continue operating with the license when they are paying the license,” he said. “They are licenses granted before the law,” he explained.
Rachel Fregosi, who is renting the Barco del Amor building to establish a soda and macrobiotic store, said the owner of the building has a business license for a bar, and she is in process of getting an occasional permit to also be able to hold evening events at the location. “I’ve gone to the municipality and to [the Ministry of] Health and they are familiar with the location,” Fregosi said. “They just sent me to do a couple of things.”
She expressed confidence that she won’t have any problems with the business being in the maritime zone, especially since the tide no longer comes up as high as where the building is since the earthquake of 2012 shifted the land slightly.