Buyer beware: Unregulated land sales in Puerto Morelos
PUERTO MORELOS, Q. Roo — Given the lack of legal certitude on the permits granted by the city council headed by Laura Fernández Piña, through landowner groups, the sale of land in the area is a multi-million-dollar business with no administrative regulation. This generates anarchy in the area and territorial conflicts in the medium term, warn landowners.
The potential for ecotourism represented by the Cenotes Route triggered the irregular sale of many pieces of land without services, which are offered under the hook of properties with high tourism potential, valued in dollars and representing a big business both for the municipal government and landowner groups.
The Cenotes Route is an area of 35 kilometers between Puerto Morelos and Leona Vicario, with underground rivers connected to each other, dating back 14,000 years, becoming an attraction for adventure tourism, which during the high season attracts about three thousand visitors.
Before this, the area became a kind of gold mine, where the landowners sell to the highest offer their virgin lands, despite the fact that the sale of land without services is criminalized in the State Penal Code.
Although the Cenotes Route began to explode 15 years ago, it has now resumed a boom, after theme parks and businessmen promoted large scale ecotourism, so it is common to see along the Cenotes Route, signs where they offer land with tourist potential.
Buildings ranging from two to three million dollars, whose biggest hook is that they include a cenote, is what they have in common, and generally the deal is direct, that is to say between the buyer and the seller, reason why there are no intermediaries. In fact in the last five years 15% of the landowners have divided their lands to sell.
The sale of virgin land is not only characterized as a crime, but also represents violations of environmental laws, because at the time of making land divisions usually affect the ecosystem of the area, in addition to having no permits from the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection (Procuraduría de Protección Ambiental, Profepa, in Spanish).
In fact, recently the authorities of the zone have temporarily closed a property located in the area, after unauthorized removal of vegetation from the forest.
The environmental authorities’ argument for closing lands is that any change on the land use requires an authorization, because heavy machinery is often used in an ecosystem where there are protected species, listed in Official Mexican Standard NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, under the category of Threatened Species.
Land inspections show that most of thse operations lack authorization for the Land Use Change in Forests issued by the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría del Meido Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Semarnat, in Spanish).
However, despite these irregularities and violations of Decree 360 of the Criminal Code of Quintana Roo, which punishes those who commercialize virgin land, municipal authorities and courts do not intervene, so sales of these lands have soared.
Given the permissiveness, usually the landonwers pay their fines, so that no liability is incurred.
It should be noted that in the sales announcements, the extension of the lots, the initial amounts of payment and telephone number are disclosed, where they assure to extend the information, generally the contacts between the sellers and the landlords.
Some sales of these properties are driven by commissary Jose Julio Ascenso Reynoso, administrative chief of landlords, who establishes the link between owners and people interested in buying lands, but most people prefer to make direct deals, since intermediation involves paying a percentage for sales.