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Municipal Council Approves Concession in Maritime Zone for Intercultura

By Arianna McKinney

With an impressive display of community support, almost 100 people from Samara turned up at the Municipal Council meeting on Monday, April 22 to show support for the Intercultura Language School and cheered and applauded when the council voted to approve a concession that will allow the school to expand.

Laura Ellington, director of Intercultura, explained that the concession for an empty lot next to the current building will allow the school to build needed classrooms in order to continue receiving students after their lease for the house next door runs out in December. Ellington pointed out that without the new classrooms, the school would have to turn away about 48 students per month.

During the previous council session on Monday, April 15, Intercultura representatives presented data on how much the students benefit the community economically. For example, housing the students is a source of income for about 70 families in the community. Homestay families offer students private rooms and interaction with the family during breakfast and dinner, and they receive 70,000 colones ($140) per week. Other families provide residence in shared rooms with less interaction required with the families for 45,000 colones per week ($90).  In addition, students spend an average of 10,000 colones ($20) per day on lunches and going out at night and an average of 122,000 colones ($244) on excursions. Thus in January of 2013, an estimated 56,035,200 ($112,070) was generated for local families, restaurants, bars and tour operators. 

After the April 15 session, council members went to inspect the site to ensure that no structures currently exist on the lot and that the lot is located beyond the 50-meter public portion of the maritime zone in the 150 meters of maritime zone for which concessions can be granted. They alsoverified that a technical study had been completed by the municipal maritime land zone department.

No one showed up at the council sessions to oppose the concession, but the council’s president, Ana Lizeth Espinoza Fonseca, noted that there has been opposition to the school and therefore, the council had to proceed with caution to be objective andadhere to the law.

For example, lawyer Erwin Alan Seas previously indicated to VON that Intercultura was built on a parcel designated as a residential lease zone in the current regulatory plan, questioning why the municipality authorized the construction of a private school there. However, Ellington clarified that although the primary zoning for the property is residential, the zoning permits a conditional commercial tourism use, and Juan Carlos Oviedo Quesada, head of the maritime land zone department for the Municipality of Nicoya, affirmed that Intercultura is in a touristic use zone.

After the council members voted to approve the concession, Bonifacio Diaz, syndic for Samara, and Mayor Marco Jimenez expressed gratitude to the council for understanding the value of the project. The mayor noted that a vote “in favor of this business is in favor of the community.”

After the approval was given, the audience from Samara filed out of the room, with many pausing in the lobby of the Casa de Cultura to congratulate Ellington, who was laughing with happiness as people hugged her. “It feels really good,” she remarked.

Oviedo noted that the concession applied for was for 20 years, the maximum time allowed for concessions in the maritime zone. However, before the concession is officially granted, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) must give final approval, which could take up to 30 days.

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