The Municipality of Nicoya could have to pay thousands of dollars after a complaint was filed by Felix Rodrigo Duarte Orozco with the Administrative Disputes Court for alleged theft of property and violation of private property.
Duarte, a resident of Nicoya, filed the complaint in 2010 for ¢90 million ($171,500) and is waiting for the decision.
According to Duarte, the complainant, the incident occurred in 2004 when the mayor opened a 14-meter-wide road to connect the street behind the hospital with the main road into the city, and this went across his land.
The complaint reads that those works were done without any negotiation or any payment to the plaintiff, even though the street crosses his property.
The property is located at the northeastern part of La Anexion Hospital, where the informal taxi stop is located, before crossing the bridge toward the hospital on the right hand side when entering the city of Nicoya. According to the land registry map, it has an area of 451.19 square meters (0.11 acres) valued by the municipality’s real estate department in approximately ¢65 million ($123,800).
“[In June of 2010,] I went to get construction permits, for which I had taken out a loan of ¢25 million ($47,600) and they indicated that I was not allowed to because it didn’t belong to me. I never donated them the lot, but this is what they told me. Now I’m paying ¢300,000 ($570) per month for the loan and I don’t have permits to build,” commented Duarte.
The Nicoyan appealed to the municipal council in early 2011, and the council decided to refer the matter to the Legal Commission of the Municipality of Nicoya.
“This commission, after analyzing all of the essential background records, once approved, requested to send the present legal opinion to the administration, with the recommendation to start the legal process to amend the error committed against the interests of Rigoberto Duarte Orozco and start the corresponding compensation procedure,” said the document issued by the commission.
In June of 2011, the council was informed of and unanimously approved the commission’s result and sent it to the administration for implementation. At that time, current council member Edwin Yockchen presided over the legal commission.
“That was some time ago and yes, supposedly there is a street now that at that time was part of the property of this man [Felix Rodrigo Duarte] and due process was not followed. I remember that this case was transferred to the administration. However, I don’t know the outcome,” stated Yockchen.
According to Duarte, despite the recommendations and the agreements from the council, the Municipality’s administration refused to implement the process of expropriation and compensation, so he was forced to go to the Administrative Disputes Court, to demand payment of the full value of the property, plus damages incurred during the process, an amount that must be calculated by the court.
The Voice of Guanacaste tried to talk to the mayor of Nicoya, Marco Jimenez, about why the recommendation of the legal commission to compensate the neighbor was not followed. However, it was not possible to communicate with him.
What Does the Law Say?
Attorney Carlos Angulo of the BLP Society said that municipalities should always first try to reconcile the dispute between parties. Then it should be demonstrated that there is public interest in the property, and finally compensation and expropriation should be agreed upon.
“The municipality should demonstrate that this public interest exists. Then the municipality should try to negotiate impartially with the people who own the property. If there is lack of interest from the owners of the property, then the due process of expropriation should be carried out with prior payment of the corresponding compensation,” Angulo indicated.
However, there are exceptional cases. A private road can become public if it has been used by people for public transit for more than two years, without the owner having issued a restriction.
Angulo explained that if people invade a public area as squatters, the municipality can expropriate it without having to pay compensation.