Trade treaty arbitration begun in Playa Grande land case

Property owners who own land that may be inside the boundaries of an expanded park at Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas on the Pacific Coast are hauling Costa Rica into arbitration under the provisions of the Free Trade Treaty with the United States and Central America.

A summary from the property owners’ lawyers said that since 2006 the owners have lost full use of their titled property because the country has expanded the boundaries of the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas. The complaint in which the property owners join recites a long list of inaccurate information and delays on the part of Costa Rica.

The property owners say they do not object to expropriation of their land but they would like to see that take place.

They also are seeking significant funds. The complaint lists $49 million as a starter amount and undefined amounts thereafter.

Costa Rica has stalled in buying out the affected owners because officials have said they do not have the money.

Those in the arbitration case, all U.S. citizens, say they are in accord with the country’s environmental policies and describe the beaches as outstanding. They purchased the properties for subdivision and resale.

The persons involved in the case are Bob E. Spence, Joseph M. Holsten, Brenda and Ronald Copher, Brett, Trevor and Aaron Berkowitz and Glen Cremillion. Also involved is at least one  corporation, Spence International Investments LLC.

The 26-page complaint carries the names of Todd Weiler of London, Ontario, Tina Cicchiette of Vancover, British Columbia, and Vianney Saborio Hernández of San José as lawyers.

The complaint says that the free trade treaty requires prompt payment for expropriation. In addition, the murky legal situation there, basically a result of Costa Rica’s actions and inconsistencies in park boundaries, represents a de facto taking, the complaint suggests.

One resident of that area already won an arbitration case against the country for many of the same reasons. But he chose to litigate it through the arbitration arm of the World Bank.

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