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Mayor Shuts Down Artisan Market in Samara
• Battle over Samara property's maritime zone concession resulted in aggression

By Arianna McKinney

Patricia Samuel's stand

Alongside the entrance to the beach in Samara, across from the police delegation and in front of the school, artisans sold their colorful crafts to tourists and passersby. However, that changed on Wednesday, March 23, when the new mayor, Marcos Jimenez, along with delegates from the Municipality arrived in the morning to shut down commercial activities in the maritime zone property, which no longer has a concession for commercial use, leaving a dozen people who worked there and their families wondering what to do now.

The battle over the property has been dragging on for years but heated up and resulted in physical aggression when Manfred Spitzbarth tried to collect rent at the end of December 2010 from Patricia Samuels Barnett, who was selling crafts in the corner booth of the property in question.

Commercial Concession Ended in 2005
Spitzbarth recounted his tale of legal troubles related to the property since he began investing there in 1992. According to the regulatory plan for Samara's Maritime Zone, the property is designated for public services such as parking lots or bathrooms. However, Spitzbarth said that when he agreed to purchase the property and later the adjoining property as president of the company "Centro Comercial de Sámara S.A.", he was promised a commercial concession, which was granted from 1995 to 2005. He said that now-mayor Jimenez helped with that contract. However, when he tried to get an extension of the concession, it was denied

Jimenez, when asked, stated that the Municipal Council authorized a 10-year concession for the property but the concession ran out and since then, Spitzbarth has been acting illegally on the property. Judicial Director for the municipality Miguel Angel Guillén Elizondo further explained that the concession granted for the property was irregular and that the land cannot be given a concession. He also said that the Council reached an agreement in which an extension of the concession would not be granted because the land was destined for public services. The case was appealed to the superior court and was decided in favor of the municipality on February 7, 2007.

Cintia Alfaro Sanchez

Although Spitzbarth recognizes that the court sentence states that the Municipality has the right to not grant a new concession, he also maintains that the investments made in the property during the years of concession should be respected. Spitzbarth claims that, with interest, he has invested more than $1,000,000 and was in the process of developing a first-class restaurant when he was forced to close the restaurant and stop construction.

"I can't finish this, I don't want to finish this. I'm too old. All these problems make me sick," Spitzbarth lamented as he walked around the property, showing the unfinished project. He said he'll leave when he is paid something in damages. In the meantime, he was renting space on the property to nine artisans, as well as a guy who repairs surf boards and Zona de Confort, which rents jet skis and other items. However, he said that what he received in rent each month isn't enough to pay the electricity, water and taxes for the property.

Dispute over Rent Ends in Violence
Although Spitzbarth paid the electricity, Patricia Samuels Barnett, who says she had rented from him for about 2 years, decided to stop paying rent after a visit from the Municipality raised doubts about the land's ownership. On December 31, when Spitzbarth came to collect rent, Samuels refused to pay based on inquiries she made at the Municipality. At around 2 o'clock that day, she said Spitzbarth cut off the electricity. That night, she collected her things running an extension cord from the police station for light. In the morning, she returned to check on the tables accompanied by an acquaintance. She said Spitzbarth told them to leave his property and threw a rock, fracturing the shoulder of the man who was with her, and more violence ensued as each tried to defend themselves. Spitzbarth said that people with Samuels were armed and he received cuts on his arm and chin.

What Next for the Artisans?
On January 7, Samuels set up a stand across the street on the corner by the school, using her car battery for electricity. However, she said she'd like to have a better location for all the artisans to work. On Monday, March 14, she went to talk to the new mayor about the issue, and said he offered no help and told her that the artisans would be removed from the property, which was carried out on March 23. "We can't help them in this moment," Mayor Jimenez told VON.

Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada, Maritime Land Zone coordinator for the municipality, said that the artisans don't have permits and have been working illegally. He recognized that this is their livelihood as well as an attraction for some tourists; however he said the municipality lacks resources to help.

"This is complicated. These matters of concessions, I don't understand who is right and who isn't," commented Melania Telles, who had been renting from Spitzbarth for about a year.

The morning that the market was shut down, many of the artisans and their family members congregated on the lot, trying to figure out what to do. Maria Esperanza Gomez Hoyos was one of the artisans present with her stand already open when the mayor arrived and presented them with a paper, telling them they can no longer work there. She said she personally has a business permit up to date but now she has no where to work. "We're going to present our case in Court IV and function as an artisan's association of Samara to ask for a location of artisans in a lot in the center of Samara with patents," she declared, upset about having to close up her stand, where she has worked for about three years. "Vamos a pronunciarnos en la Sala IV y funcionarnos como una asociacion de artesanos de Samara para pedir ubicacion de los artesanos en un lote en el centro de Samara con patente".



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