Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

The gate may close, but we’ve got our foothold | Real Estate

Last week’s column of comments on the Costa Rican construction led some to believe that my wife Lisa and I had collected sticks and became emigrants. No, not yet.

The plans are in the works, but it will be a few more months before we can pull them through; probably May at the earliest.

In the meantime, I am still writing on housing and development topics relevant to Santa Fe and beyond. Perhaps, even occasionally, what makes Santa Fe similar and different from what is discovered about Costa Rica.

It’s not too difficult to keep up with meetings, e-mails and other forms of communication recorded with Zoom – regardless of whether I’m in my home office in Eldorado or on a terrace with a sea view in Costa Rica. Actually, it just feels like an extension of pandemic practices that started almost two years ago. My editor even fooled me for recently streamed a meeting of the city’s finance committee from Costa Rica when he thought I should be lounging with a cerveza.

As much as we may miss live meetings, the city council rooms are not that warm and inviting. The County Commission chambers have at least one great mural to marvel at when the roaring eyes glaze over. Hopefully, the interactive lessons of civic engagement will remain with us when life returns to “normal”.

One surprise in Costa Rica is that access to drinking water is limiting residential development. This in an area that saw 20 feet of rainfall in 2020. That’s 20 times the annual average for Santa Fe.

In Santa Fe, we can design and build houses that can collect enough rainfall from roofs, which is then diverted to underground tanks and then filtered and treated to meet almost all of the indoor drinking water needs.

As in many western US states, all freshwater in Costa Rica is owned by the state. These are all springs, streams, rivers and groundwater. There are many older subdivided plots that could get water according to old rules that are no longer possible. They stay inland until one day the state provides a pipe system. Fortunately, pipes do not need to be buried, or if so, not very deeply.

Wells can be dug, but not when they are near streams, even intermittently. And almost everywhere there are streams in a thrown stone. The 14 lot subdivision our new home is in was fortunate to have a state approved system. It’s raw – a pump house over a rushing, spring-fed creek that houses an electric motor that occasionally fails – but it’s fresh and clean.

My developer brain originally thought of “solving” a problem by introducing perfected rainwater harvesting techniques to Santa Fe, both on a subdivision scale and for individual homes. After all, tanks don’t need to be buried, and Tico employees are very adept at building leak-proof tanks called swimming pools and hot tubs.

However, if you think about it further, I am drawn to another Santa Fe tradition: closing the gate behind me. As in Santa Fe, the beautiful landscape and challenging topography is fragile. As in Santa Fe, locals and cultures can be subsumed by well-meaning and ignorant expatriates. Like Santa Fe, outsiders can love something to death.

Perhaps it is time to give the developer mind a break. In contrast to interstate travel within the United States, which does not allow one state to limit settlers from another, Costa Rica, as a sovereign state, can close its borders at any time and to whomever it wants.

Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be in sight for those with expatriate plans like ours. But you are on your own.

Kim Shanahan has been a Green Builder in Santa Fe since 1986 and a sustainability consultant since 2019. Contact him at [email protected]

Comments are closed.