A brief look around the streets of Guiones and Pelada is enough to see the amount of construction currently taking place. Although these developments are great for the community in terms of progress and employment, the NCA has always been firmly committed to the idea that growth must go hand in hand with the environmental responsibility and care for community resources. Particularly because Guiones and Pelada are part of a treasured Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.
That is why since 2019, the NCA supported the Municipality of Nicoya in the creation of the “Regulations for the granting of construction permits in the buffer zone of the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge”, which came into effect on February 28th this year, after its publication in the official newspaper La Gaceta.
For NCA President Ethel Araya, this regulation was necessary, since Nosara is a unique community because it coexists next to a national wildlife refuge.
“This is the first step to prevent Nosara from suffering the tragic fate of many coastal towns that drowned in popularity to the point of losing their essence. Nosara is green, it is nature. “We must develop in harmony with the environment”, said Araya.
The purpose of this initiative is to regulate the constructions found in the buffer zone of the Refuge, which extends 5 kms from the boundary of the refuge. For this reason these rules directly impact Guiones and Pelada.
The regulation is not retroactive, therefore, it does not apply to existing constructions or to those that were in process from six months before the rules came into effect. These requirements apply to building permits that were applied for after February 28, 2020.
What Changes Now?
With this new regulation, the Municipality of Nicoya will not be able to grant the construction permit in the entire buffer zone to those who want to build on more than 50% of the area of the lot.
According to the administrator of the Refugio de Ostional, Yeimy Cedeño, this measure is seeking to preserve connectivity of fauna species. If not controlled, islands could be generated in protected areas, with totally isolated species that have no way to move and continue with their ecological functioning.
The buffer zone is divided into two zones: direct impact and indirect impact. Areas classified as direct impact, which are those located in the first kilometer from the outer limit of the refuge towards the mainland and on slopes facing the sea, the maximum height of the buildings should not exceed nine meters.
For defined indirect impact areas, which are located between the limit of the first kilometer measured from the outer limit of the refuge and the limit of the buffer area, the maximum height established is 12 meters.
Another change has to do with 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).
For Cedeño, these lighting regulations seek to preserve the nesting habitat of sea turtles.
The new regulations also require that all new constructions, in both direct and indirect impact areas, have a wastewater treatment system.
“If the wastewater is not managed properly, then the aquifers will be contaminated. You have to minimize the impact, “said Cedeño.
In addition, it is required that they implementa protection measuresto avoid the impact of birds hitting glass walls, windows or doors.
These regulations are temporary and will cease to apply when the regulatory plan for the Nosara district is approved.
Why is the Muni Being Sued Over the Regulation?
After the new rule came into effect, on April 21st the company JBR Capital Ventures filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Litigation Court against the Municipality of Nicoya, claiming the regulation presents a series of irregularities.
According to the press department of the Judiciary, this legal process is in the initial stage of notifying the parties to present evidence and documentation.
JBR points out in the lawsuit that there was an absence of technical studies and has claimed that some articles of the Urban Planning Law were violated in the omission of calling a public hearing.
As a precautionary measure, JBR requests that the Contentious Court suspend the application of the regulation until the merits of the process are resolved.
“The suspension of the execution of the contested municipal regulation favors the owners and neighbors of the area surrounding the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge, without distinction, from the small owners who intend to build a house, to the companies that intend to develop tourist projects to generate investment, development and employment in the area”, says the lawsuit.
The municipal engineer Josué Ruiz, who was part of the technical team that prepared the regulation, explained that the basis of this tool is not the Urban Planning Law, since it is not a matter of planning but rather an environmental one.
“Here we are not talking about an urban planning problem, that will be seen in the development of the regulatory plan. This regulation is going to be a small part of the regulatory plan. Here we are in a situation of environmental vulnerability and we are using the power that the Municipal Code gives us to make regulations”, said Ruiz.
The engineer also added that during the process the Municipality of Nicoya visited Nosara once a week, to clarify doubts about the regulations. In addition, he assured they held specific meetings in the David Kitson Library outside office hours, so that all those who work could attend.
The NCA are strong advocates of these temporary regulations as we believe in sustainable development as we continue to support the creation of a regulatory plan that is tailored to the needs of the entire community. Regulatory plans take all the sectors interests into account.
NCA’s support for a regulatory plan includes financing the necessary hydrogeological studies that assess water consumption and availability in the area. The NCA also leads the coordination of the regulatory plan commission and the constant search for funds for the payment of studies that are part of the plan.
“We are confident that there are more people in Nosara, who, like the members of the association, know that development and conservation are not mutually exclusive, but are and should be compatible,” said the NCA president.
The NCA is committed to supporting the legal defense of these temporary rules, supporting the Municipality’s legal department with external legal advice and work as collaborators in this process in coordination with SINAC.