When the school in Terciopelo in the district of Samara was built in 1962 on a donated lot located behind the town’s plaza, no plans were made for a driveway to the school. At the time it was no problem, according to the school’s director, Mayra Mora Bonilla, because back then there were no fences and people passed freely across the plaza. Later, however, fences were put up, thus creating difficulties.
The school, which currently has 38 students, is surrounded by fincas and private properties, and is situated behind the plaza where people play soccer and which is also registered as private property. In the rainy season, the plaza floods and children have to come to school in boots to cross through the mud. This is hard for many of the students, especially in 2008 when a handicapped girl was attending the school and wasn’t able to make it across.
“If a fire happens, we don’t have a way to get the kids out,” lamented Mora. She also pointed out that if a health emergency arises, there is no access for an ambulance.
Mora became director of the school in 2009 and since then has been struggling to find a way to create a formal entrance to the school. Inquiries were made to see if neighbors might donate a portion of a property to provide access, but they didn’t want to, according to Mora. Another possibility would be to reopen a road that hasn’t been used since the main road to Samara was opened.
Mora filed a constitutional appeal against the Municipality of Nicoya regarding the road, and in December of 2010 the Constitutional Court issued a decision ordering the Municipality to reopen the road. The order required the former mayor, Eduardo Gutierrez Rosales, or the person occupying the position as mayor of Nicoya, to take actions within one month of notification of the sentence to reopen the road, stipulating a penalty of three months to two years of prison or 20 to 60 days fine for not complying.
This seems like a simple solution, but it has proved to be difficult and as of yet the court order has not been carried out. The former road passed through the middle of what is now the plaza, which neighbors don’t want to tear up. Also José Antonio Santiago López Pérez claims a segment of the former road as part of his property and has filed a countersuit. Lopez has built a shed and outhouse where the roadway used to be, which would need to be torn down in order to reopen the former road.
Lopez affirmed that he has lived on his property for 57 years, before the school was built, and after the road fell into disuse. “I don’t cause harm to anyone. This is private property and people should respect that,” he said.
Lopez also related that he and a cousin were the ones who created the plaza, investing more than 2 million colones ($4000) of his own money to buy tubes to enclose the plaza.
Lopez’s lawyer, Modesto Mendoza, said he submitted an appeal to the administrative contentious court, which is pending. Mendoza said that there is a right of way that could be opened instead that would not affect either Lopez’s property or the plaza.
In the meantime, the municipal council created a committee with members of the council and the legal department to conduct a study and report on the case. Bonifacio Diaz, syndic for Samara and a member of the committee, said they need to measure the street and noted that to fulfill the court order as is, they would have to open the road through the plaza. An alternative being considered by the committee is opening access to the school and then opening a road on the right side of the plaza to join it with the main road without harming the plaza.
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