The landscape in your vicinity of Costa Rica could look different down the road as proposed legislation is being considered for a new urban and rural land use category.

The Asamblea Legistativa is studying bill number 23.200, the “Law of creating touristic residential recreational parcels.” This bill adds section 33 bis to the Urban Planification Law number 4240, to create a new form of economic reactivation and foreign and national investment attraction.

The Urban and Planification Law regulates the subdivision of land and allows each municipality to plan and control urban development in its county. Currently, there are three main district land categories under Costa Rican regulation:

Urban — corresponds to territories designated for the development of population centers.

Rural — land dedicated in its majority to the use and prioritization of natural resources, characterized by the joint evolution of society and nature.

Mixed — land that has more than one use: residential, commercial, industrial, or between agricultural, livestock, forest, or others.

According to the Fractionation and Urbanization Regulation, an agricultural parcel — within the third category — must have a minimum area of 5,000 square meters in rural zones and 7,000 square meters in urban zones.

Some owners have used agricultural parcels differently than they were originally intended — for agricultural use — and instead developed them for tourism or residency.

The proposed touristic residential recreational parcel category will be a unique division modality. In both urban and rural areas, such land parcels may be used for residential and recreational purposes through “touristic easement.” This legal designation will allow controlled infrastructure growth and new developments to reactivate tourism in the country.

The proposed tourist residential recreational parcel will have the following features:

The area must be at least 5,000 square meters.

The cadastral plan must indicate “touristic residential use.”

More than one house can be built for residential and recreational use; buildings can have a maximum of two floors each. The maximum coverage for construction will be 25% of the parcel area.

Access will be through an easement “servidumbre turistica” of seven meters wide in favor of and against the parcel. This easement will allow the authorities to provide public services, urbanistic control, municipal security, health services, fireman, or anything related.

The cession of the public area will not be required.

Bill 23.200 will not require the approval of any additional regulation or bylaws. However, each Municipality can issue particular dispositions according to its master plans.

The main differences between these two categories of land, agricultural and touristic residential recreational parcels, are the following:

bz legal ease chart

Once the bill is approved, if no changes are made, the owners of agricultural parcels will have 24 months to turn their property into a tourist parcel by following proper due process. They must submit a written petition to the corresponding municipality requesting the land classification change. It will not be required to rectify or update the cadastral plan or the registered title before the National Registry.

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