San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Construction Halted on Pacific Beach Properties

Landowners in Playa Grande, Playa Langosta and Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast, said they were surprised this week when municipal building inspectors shut down their construction sites for potentially infringing on land used for leatherback turtle nesting.

The move followed a December ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) to halt building within the boundaries of Las Baulas National Marine Park and within 500 meters of the park’s periphery (TT, Jan. 16).

Santa Cruz Municipality Inspector Overath Ortega said as many as 20 sites may be closed.

The environmental group Leatherback Trust, which aims to protect the critically endangered leatherback turtles, hailed the closures as a victory.

“At last, the Santa CruzMunicipality is following the orders of the Constitutional Chamber,” said José Luis Rodríguez, lawyer for the Leatherback Trust.

However, despite the court ruling, landowners have vowed to fight the closure. Tom Battaglia said his almost half-acre plot lies beyond the park’s buffer zone and the nearly finished buildings on his land pose no threat to turtles. He knows this, he said, because he carried out an almost yearlong environmental impact study, required for attaining a building permit.

The building freeze will continue until environmental authorities complete an assessment of the area, clearly delineating where construction can occur, according to Ortega.

–Alex Leff


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