San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Belén Freezes Construction Until Zoning Plan Approved

Construction of “mega projects” in the canton of Belén will soon come to a halt while the municipal government gets its ducks in a row.

Tuesday evening, the Belén Municipal Council voted unanimously to suspend all construction permits for housing, condominiums and industry deemed too large while the municipality drafts a new zoning plan, Belén Mayor Horacio Alvarado said yesterday. Small projects, such as individual homes or businesses, will be allowed in the canton, located in the province of Heredia, northwest of San José.

“Since 2004, the council members have been very concerned about Belen’s development,” Alvarado said. “The development has come so fast that the storm gutters, sewers and roadways have collapsed.”

Alvarado explained the moratorium is not retroactive, and any projects already in the permit process when the hold goes into effect will be honored. The suspension goes into effect once it is published in the official government daily La Gaceta.

The mayor explained that the new zoning plan will be accompanied by master plans for the canton’s sewers, gutters, roads and public services, and the council’s decision authorizes the municipality to pay for or search for external funding for the projects.

The zoning update in Belén comes as all the cantons in the greater metropolitan area are preparing to draft their own zoning plans as part of a project funded by the European Union, Alvarado said. However, he has yet to hear of another municipality considering the idea of suspending future construction.

“This will be an attraction (for future investment),” Alvarado insisted. “Whatever business that wants to come and invest here will have rules that are very clear and in order.”

The moratorium on big projects will be in effect until the new zoning plan is finished and published in La Gaceta. The municipality’s deadline, as established by the council, is November.


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