Surfrider Foundation Halts Illegally Permitted Development In Puerto Rico

Rincón, Puerto Rico (November 30, 2004) – Following months of deliberation, Hon. Pedro Claverol Siaca halted construction of the Sandy Beach Apartments for having a permit that was granted illegally. In the ruling, the court ordered an immediate cessation of all construction and provided the developer, Sr. Wilfredo Vilá Suro, with the opportunity to resubmit the project within 45 days to the Planning Board for reconsideration. Should the developer reapply, the court has ordered the Planning Board to hold the required public hearings within 45 days of the application. If the developer does not choose to reapply, the injunction will remain in place.

The court determined that the project, as proposed, did not comply with the applicable zoning ordinances. The Puerto Rico Planning Board did not change the land use zoning designation for the area but changed the zoning rules specific to the project and allowed construction. The zoning modifications were made without holding a legally required public hearing.

“This case is about more than a single construction project, it is about the uniform application of the law to all citizens and the public’s right to participate in the planning process, says Miguel Sarriera Roman, Esq., attorney representing the Surfrider Foundation.

The Rincón Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and a local resident requested injunctive relief to stop construction of the four story building on the coastline of Rincón after all other means were exhausted and failed to get an appropriate response from the Puerto Rico Planning Board. The project threatens beach access and could ultimately impact adjacent beaches.

In the ruling, the court also required the defendant to submit a plan to mitigate any possible environmental harm caused by the work cessation.

The Rincón Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has been working in the community for several years with the goal of protecting coastal natural resources and engaging the community in coastal zone management decisions. The collection of over 7000 petition signatures from community members supporting improved protection of Rincón’s coastline make it clear that coastal protection is an extremely important issue for Rincoeños.

“The absence of a local zoning plan has contributed to land use decisions being made in San Juan with little or no public input,” said Surfrider Rincón Coordinator, Leon Richter. “Surfrider is prepared to work with the Municipality of Rincón and the community on the development of a Plan de Ordenación Territorial that would create greater transparency and public input and provide the community with the tools necessary to plan for sustainable growth at the local level.”

For more information on the Surfrider Foundation’s efforts in Rincón, Puerto Rico, go to http://www.surfrider.org/rincon

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. 2004 marks the Surfrider Foundation’s 20th Anniversary. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers, the Foundation now maintains over 37,000 members and 60 chapters across the United States and Puerto Rico, with international affiliates in Australia, Europe, Japan and Brazil. For more information or to join the Surfrider Foundation, visit us at www.surfrider.org.