San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bill to exempt coastal residents from Maritime Zone Law passes first-round vote

The Coastal Territories Bill, or “TECOCOS,” passed a first round of debates at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday after the ruling National Libertarian Party delayed voting Monday night.

The bill would permit exceptions to the current Maritime Zone Law, which restricts construction of buildings within 200 meters of the coastline. TECOCOS would allow towns near the coast to be designated as coastal communities and to create zoning plans. With a zoning plan, these communities could give concessions for buildings within the restricted zone in areas where development has already occurred within the designated coastal limit.

The issue over the Maritime Zone Law, adopted in the 1970s, has become problematic in recent years, as judges have ordered the destruction of buildings in several coastal communities, which would affect thousands of mostly poor Costa Rican residents. If the current law were enforced, it would mean the demolition of approximately 60,000 homes. Businesses within 200 meters of the high tide line would also be affected.

“TECOCOS gives us the legitimacy to continue living and working in coastal territories and creates mechanisms to strengthen our economic activities,” National Front for Coastal Communities Coordinator Wilman Matarrita said after the vote.

The bill still faces another round of debates in the Assembly before it can be passed on to President Laura Chinchilla for signing.

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