About the roads in our developments

Our roads are a point of frequent discussion.  They are rougher than what most North Americans experience in their daily lives.  When you live in Costa Rica, you realize the charm of the roads.  People can still let their dogs, cats, chickens and children and not worry about them playing in the road.  We drive slower.  Even the major highways in Costa Rica have speed limits of 90 kilometers per hour max, about 54 miles an hour.  What you learn when you are here for a while is that life is not a race, we don’t need to ever go 70 or 80 miles an hour.  Many owners have mixed feelings about the municipality paving the main road in town and when they came in and widened it, there was some animosity by locals since a number of larger trees had to be cut down in the process.  When expats retire in Costa Rica, they don’t want high fees associated with real estate holdings and property to offset the savings of living here.   


The roads in our developments are made of what is referred to as “Lastre” in Costa Rica.  Lastre is a combination of gravel and hard dirt but as roads are constructed, the gravel and dirt is steam rolled into place.  This makes for a hard durable surface.  The municipality requires that concrete storm gutters (called Cunetas) are constructed on the sides of roads in steeper terrain.  Roads made of “Lastre” can erode, which does happen somewhat during the rainy season.  2010 was a record rainy season for us and we had more damage than we’d ever experienced in the past.  Once the rains subside, the roads are re-graded and rerolled with a steam roller.  For as long as I can remember, our roads have always been accessible.  This year we had a few that were not, again we had what Costa Rican meteorologists described as a 100 year storm. 


A few of our phases also have rivers that must be crossed in accessing that phase.  Prior to last year, owners in phases 4,5, 6 and 7 had to drive through the Tortuga River which crosses the public road that provides access to their properties.  Occasionally the river was un-passable during periods of high rain, when the river would become too deep to cross.  This would require owners in those phases to take an alternate way around, which added as much as a half hour additional time to get to their homes.  This past year owners joined forces with the municipality, using money provided by the municipality and money contributed through association fees in those particular phases (as well as some donations from companies like Pacific Lots) and a bridge was built across the river.  Now these owners never have to worry about the height of the river.  Improvements like these come as more people move into our area.  We now have plans to put a bridge across the river at the entrance to phase 9 and 9B.  The developer is paying for this improvement.  In our newest phases, we have built bridges at all river crossings.


Our roads are now designed and built to a new higher standard dictated by the municipality.  We meet all municipal standards while most other developers in Costa Rica seek ways to avoid having to do so.  Outside of the central valley around San Jose, most secondary roads in Costa Rica are gravel (Lastre).  Most other developers use a designation of “Parcela Minima”, a standard of development found in Costa Rica.  Parcela minima literally means “minimal parcel” and the standards to develop in Parcela minima are just that, minimal.  We develop to a standard known in Costa Rica as “En Condominio”.  Not “condominiums” like you might think the word means in North America, but rather translated more like “developments meeting residential development standards”.  Under this designation we must meet municipal standards for roads, water and electric within our developments.  Part of the reason why many developers choose to gate their developments in Costa Rica is that doing so allows them to meet the lower “parcela minima” standard which required much less work and expense on their part.


In terms of ownership and maintenance, many of the roads in our developments are owned by the Municipality.  Unfortunately that often means that little work gets done on them unless absolutely necessary.  Keep in mind that low property taxes means less money available for infrastructure.  You can’t have both great roads and low taxes.  Many of our phases have formed voluntary associations and contribute to an annual road maintenance fund.  I pay about $150 per year toward road maintenance  for my lot in phase 2 and about $200 per year for my lot in phase 9 as a part of the “association fees”.  We work hard to keep association fees low and as such they typically run from $20 to a high of $50 per month in the worst case.  Many of our phases have no association fees.