The Nosara Civic Association wants everyone to understand what the temporary construction regulation is about, how it differs from the regulatory plan, the reasons why the Municipality of Nicoya is currently being sued in this process, and how we are helping in the legal defense.

Here are seven questions that will help you understand the case:

1. What are the construction regulations?

It is a municipal rule that was approved in February 2020 and aims to regulate and control the granting of construction permits for those who want to build in the buffer zone of the Ostional Wildlife Refuge.

2. Where do the regulations apply?

The regulations apply to properties that are part of the buffer zone. This area is delimited by SINAC and, in the case of the Ostional refuge, it is directly related to the aquifers that exist in Nosara. Therefore a buffer area of ​​5 km from the Refuge boundary towards the mainland was determined. This area is composed of two zones – the direct impact zone which includes the first kilometer back from the border of the Refuge, and the indirect impact zone that includes the remaining four kilometers. The boundary of the Refuge goes 200 meters from the high tide, plus the inclusion of wetlands or mangroves that extend further than the 200 meters.

3. Are the regulations the same as a regulatory plan?

No. A regulatory plan is a much broader and more comprehensive territorial planning tool. Currently there is a commission made up of municipal officials and members of the community working on the creation of the regulatory plan; however, due to its complexity, its approval could take two or more years. Given the vulnerability of the Refuge caused by the excessive increase in construction in the area, the Municipality approved the regulation that will remain in force until the regulatory plan is approved.

In accordance with the Municipal Code,  Municipalities have the power to design and approve regulations. For example, the Municipality of Nandayure has a regulation for the buffer zone of the Camaronal Refuge and the Municipality of Santa Cruz has another for the buffer zone of the Las Baulas National Marine Park.

4. What do the new temporary regulations do and why?

1- Construction coverage. The Municipality of Nicoya cannot grant the construction permit to those who want to build on more than 50% of the lot area in the entire buffer zone.

Why? This measure guarantees the infiltration of rainwater into the soil to ensure the recharge of the aquifers and considers the availability of space for the installation of septic systems. It also promotes the connectivity of fauna  and eliminating islands that could be generated in protected areas causing species to be isolated.

2- The height of the construction. The maximum height for construction in the direct impact zone  (first kilometer) is 9 meters. The maximum height in the indirect impact zone is 12 meters.

Why? The heights are established considering the visibility of the lights of the buildings from the coast, in such a way that the lights of the buildings do not affect the orientation of the turtles that nest in the Refuge. Different heights are established depending on the proximity to the coast and the orientation of the slopes in which constructions can be developed.

3- The lighting. The design of the constructions must contemplate that the external lights are not directly visible from the beach. In addition, the exterior bulbs must be low voltage (not more than 50 watts if they are incandescent and less than 8 watts if they are LED).

Why? It is a complementary measure that prevents light pollution from affecting turtle spawning. 

4- Water treatment. All constructions must have wastewater treatment systems. Artisan sewer septic tanks are prohibited.

Why? Good wastewater management reduces the risk of contaminating aquifers.

5. Why is there a judicial process against the regulations?

All citizens have the right to take legal action if they believe their rights are being violated. After the new rule came into effect on April 21, the company JBR Capital Ventures filed a lawsuit before the Administrative Litigation Court against the Municipality of Nicoya alleging that the regulation presents a series of irregularities.

As a preemptive measure, JBR is asking the Litigation Court to suspend the application of the regulation until the merits of the process are resolved.

6. What is happening in the Contentious Court and how long will it last?

As JBR is a private entity suing a state organ (Municipality of Nicoya), an administrative litigation process was  opened. At this time, both parties (JBR and the Municipality of Nicoya) have presented their arguments before the Court. In a period of approximately two to three weeks, the Court must decide whether or not to accept the preemption requested by JBR. The court will then request a hearing to determine what evidence will be used in their determination. This hearing could take place in six months. After that it will go to the trial phase, where the decision could take up to a year.

7. Why is the NCA defending the regulations?

Due to the Refugio’s vulnerability, the NCA considered it risky for the regulation to be delayed. Thanks to the financial help from the members of the association, the NCA is paying for legal counsel that allows us to contribute to the arguments in the defense before the Litigation Court.


The changes do not stop development in Nosara, they only seek to conserve nature and guide us towards sustainability. Support the regulation!