In a long awaited decision released on Feb 25, the Sala Constitucional declared that the law
At stake are the unspoiled beachfront properties of the area and who gets to make the decision to of how to develop them making Cahuita and Puerto Viejo cities was unconstitutional.
Law 8464 passed in October 2005 had declared that these communities were municipalities. This would have allowed people who have lived in these areas for many years to obtain title to land as the city designation would have exempted these areas from some of the provisions of the maritime zone law which states that the first 200 meters of property from the high tide line is public property. Under this law, in effect since 1977, the first 50 meters can not be developed at all and the next 150 meters can only be leased from the government as a “concession”.
But law 8464 was challenged from the very beginning and it also did not specify the boundaries of the proposed cities. So local property owners and governments were left in limbo as to who would ultimately be responsible for making rules and determining development planning.
Real estate agent Manuel Pinto told the Talamanca News that this decision is unfortunate for those long time residents who would obtained more valuable legal title to their land. But much of this land had also been bought from those long term residents by speculators in the hopes that title would come through. Those residents and those to who they have sold to will now have to abide by the maritime zone rules.
While giving title to those currently holding such land would’ve been a boon to them financially it would have also opened up that land to development which didn’t necessarily respect the natural environment or character of the area.
Local property developer Christer Ericsson stated that “longtime residents have no reason to fear eviction if they truly have been living on their lands before the law took effect and obtained it in a lawful manner. They will simply get the right to the concession inheriting the rights and obligations that comes with it. Concessions will be granted by the local government (Municipality) and ICT only. The arrival of a plan regulator is setting the stage for proper planning and zoning that will protect our community in the future from indiscriminate development.”
Ericsson said his impression is that overall “the community is welcoming this decision and are happy to see all institutions unified working together for the sake of all residents and the future of the community.”