Uproar Over Project Shut Downs

Yesterday started off as a typical, glorious Costa Rica morning. Rod and I got an early start with San Buenas Golf Resort Project Manager Larry Breau, walking the golf course project. This involved a drive from our Uvita Costa Rica office towards the south about 20 minutes. There was a slight delay in travelling south due to to ICE (pronounced ee-say), which is the monopolistic agency here in Costa Rica in charge of telecommunications. They are running a new grid of lines to accommodate the rapid growth in the zone. No problem, just a 5 minute wait.

We had a full morning of rubber boots, machetes, broad rimmed hats and a liter of water reviewing the project.

In driving back to the office we encountered a line of cars backed up. Thinking it was ICE we sat patiently waiting. A number of people had turned off their cars and were milling about in the road, talking, some with exaggerated arm gestures. One gal walked by and upon seeing the lighter shade of our skin (assuming that meant English is spoken) she approached us and asked what the hold up was. We very authoritatively informed her what was going on with ICE. Turns out we were dead wrong. This was a road block caused by angry protesters out in front of Crystal Ballena, a local hotel and restaurant where a high level meeting was in its second day.

Costa Rica government officials met with developers and the local Osa government departments to discuss some of the project closures that were the result of an inspection sweep through the zone about a month ago. My sources aren’t official, but their pretty good. They have told me that 25 projects were inspected and of those, 16 were shut down for various infractions of development law.

These closures make the environment-loving part of me jump up and down and run all around happy. The government is taking a previously non-existent interest in the environment, and is acting to control development so as to preserve the amazing ecology in which we live down here in Costa Rica’s southern zone.

The part of me that is concerned is the part that wonders if rational minds are prevailing in the process.

I spoke with one of the developers that was shut down. His project is open again, but the censure hurt him. I heard from one of my peers in the business here that their real estate office wasn’t showing his property since he was shut down. I spoke directly to him and he said that, yes, he had been cited, but it was for putting a road in too close to a waterway… that wasn’t there! I said: “well surely it is there on an old map or something”. He said: “nope, not there on a map, nor on the earth”. A fabrication? I don’t know. But I do know that this particular developer is hands down the most knowledgeable developer in the area with regards to knowledge of local botany, soil composition, wildlife species habitation and migration needs, and forestation. AND, he is demonstrating, for 15 +- years, that his developments are all about stimulating wildlife habitation and movements through his developments. His problem was quickly remedied, but it has likely cost him in showings and possible sales.

The stoppage on the coastal highway was caused by local developers and employees of those developers that want to see their projects freed up to go back to work. Costa Rica seems, for the moment, to be minimally affected by the world economy. But these poor souls are unemployed due to these development/ecological concerns.

Obviously, some of the closures were EXTREMELY welcome. Some projects were shut down that needed a good shutting. An example of one of the formerly unenforced old laws that is now being enforced has to do with the angle of the slope that a road or building platform can be cut into. It it is determined that the developer cut into a too steep slope, he got shut down. This is good. The practice is common and results in erosion and land slides. The erosion runs to the nearest river, which then dumps its clay load into the sea where it chokes coral. From the air this looks like a huge question mark of orange hooking out into the Pacific from the river’s mouth.

Today I’m going to what is no doubt going to be a fiery and well attended meeting to discuss these matters. Costa Rica, and local municipal reps will be there, as well as a good number of the 300 or so that shut the coastal highway down for 4 hours yesterday (yes, I did finally get to my office). I also expect that I’ll see some of my professional peers and developers there. It promises to be most informative. I’ll report the goings on in my next post.

8 thoughts on “Uproar Over Project Shut Downs”

  1. The event didn't disappoint. The meeting was set for 9:00 AM and got started at 10:15. Ahhhhh – Latin America, ya gotta love it.
    The short of it is that there is no moratorium.

    If there was a theme to the day, it was: "Preserve Nature and Jobs". A moratorium would be a serious hit to the "Jobs" aspect of that theme, while allowing development to continue on, unregulated, would be a threat to "Nature".

    A developer friend of mine who was there summed it up well when he said: "If corrupt, an official will be pro-development, and pro-inefficiency". Wow, does that ever put it in a nutshell.

    So, what we are hoping we have in these under paid officials, is a group of guys that have a genuine interest in the zone, both environmentally, and socially.

    There were some resolutions signed by the mayor of Osa, as well as various department heads. Reporters and photographers were all around.

    Overall, if the ideals mentioned there are allowed to prevail, we will see some responsible, well funded, sustainable development in the future of our zone. One of the official objectives of the zone is to preserve 70% of the Canton de Osa in Jungle. A lofty objective, but attainable.

  2. Hey Ben

    looking forward to seeing you in Ja. What has happened to La Parcela, they were singled out in some news stories as being in the "restricted" zone? I would have thought that they have been there long enough to be grandfathered. i.e. having been there b4 the current law.

    Have there been any re-sales in Dan A's Tres Rios development that you know of?

    Say hi to Rod.


  3. Hi Richard, nice to have your comment.
    La Parcela was talked about at the meeting. Interestingly it was brought up by the Fishing industry folks that were there. La Parcela sits in the Dominicalito area where a lot of fishermen launch their boats. It was mentioned that the sweep had cited La Parcela for being in the maritime zone (zona maritima in Spanish if you want to Google it). Its "grandfather" status does protect it, but this underscores the frivolous nature of some of the citations that were handed out during the sweep. The fisher community was concerned about it due to the fact that La Parcela employs 17 Dominicalito families.

    One of the decisions of the past few days was that such frivolous, and in some cases erroneous, citations be avoided by requiring that an expert's signature be on the citation.

    We've been doing a number of showings up in the Tres Rios and San Buenas areas lately. The San Buenas golf course is now enjoying some pretty good sales after a couple of slow, rainy season months. Rod is the Tres Rios expert. I've asked him to post the status of that development so hopefully we'll be hearing from him here.

    • Hey Ben and Rob! Sorry for the delayed response from snowy? California. 🙂 I am not aware of any recent sales of Dan's lots in Tres Rios. I think there are still lots available that offer good value and views (not the mention some of the best infrastructure in the southern Pacific zone. There are many resales on the market, both in Tres Rios and San Buenas, and we show these lots often. Large parcels, with great views, well planned infrastructure, and listed at a good price…all good reasons to be excited about this area of paradise.

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