Lawmakers give initial approval to maritime moratorium

The legislature approved on first reading Thursday a bill that imposes a moratorium on evicting individuals and businesses from the nation’s maritime zone.

The measure, initiated by President Laura Chinchilla Miranda, provides for a 24-month breathing space for those living in the restricted maritime zone. The measure is not iron-clad. Individual situations that already are in a judicial process will not be halted by the measure, if it becomes law.

In addition, the law does not prohibit other judicial actions or actions in the event of environmental problems.

Some 400,000 persons live in these zones, mainly on the Caribbean coast of Limón province and on the Pacific coasts of Puntarenas and Guanacaste.

The maritime zone is the first 200 meters above mean high tide. The first 50 meters is supposed to be public land with
very few exceptions. The remaining 150 meters can be leased in concessions to homeowners, businesses and other commercial developers. The approval process is lengthy and involves applications to the local municipality and to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Some suspicious citizens see evictions from coastal areas as a way to free the land for commercial development by international tourism companies.

There also may be legal action to void the moratorium bill. In addition, there does not seem to be any plans by the central government to address the coastal issue when and if the moratorium expires.

Lawmakers have taken steps to modify the boundaries of the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Gandoca-Manzanillo to reduce the number of illegal dwellings there.

The measure needs one more favorable vote to send it to the president for her signature.

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