San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Dream or Nightmare: Remodeling in Granada

GRANADA – For potential homeownerswho have fantasized about buying a fixer-upand remodeling it into their dream home, thecolonial city of Granada is the ideal place tofulfill that goal, or drink yourself to death trying.This city by the lake is full of people whofit into both categories.Although setbacks are par for the coursewhen trying to invest, building or remodelingin an underdeveloped country with unknowncustoms and frangible rule of law can be afrightening prospect.However, learning the score before gettingin the game can minimize future frustrations.In Granada, which was declared a culturaland historical patrimony in June 1995, knowingthe rules means understanding the city’s buildingand planning code (Ordenanza para lasareas de protección patrimonial de la ciudad deGranada), published in the official governmentdaily La Gaceta on Sept. 17, 18 and 19, 2003.THE 233-article building code is law thatis subject to the interpretation of theDepartment of Urban Control andPlanification, located in the Alcaldía Municipalde Granada, next to the central park. The buildingcode, which includes zoning maps, can bepurchased for 100 cordobas ($16.25).The law delineates city zones intoHistorical Center, Area of Protection, and Areaof Special Arrangement, and specifies buildingand remodeling norms for each distinguishedarea.For example, in the Historical Center ofthe city, structural alterations – including subdivisionsor building a second floor – are prohibitedinside the first patio of the home,according to city architect Julia MariaDelagneau, of the Department of UrbanControl and Planification. Inside the secondpatio, homeowners have more freedom to playaround with walls, new structures or eveninstall swimming pools.In some instances, there is no second patio.Some homes are the victims of curious subdivisionsby siblings who inherited a large colonialhome from their parents generations backand decided to divide it into several oddlyshaped houses to accommodate all their families.ANOTHER stipulation to most remodelingand construction within the central part ofthe city is that the front of homes and buildingscannot be altered, so as not to disrupt the colonialatmosphere of Granada.The code designates buildings and homes,based on location and age, such as buildings ofHigh Patrimonial Value, Patrimonial Value,Historical, etc. It is imperative to find out whatcategory your home belongs to before planninghow you hope to remodel it.Before building or remodeling anything, allconstruction blueprints (known as ante proyectos)must be brought to the Department ofUrban Control and Planification for approvalby the city architect.

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