Spring 2006-02 Master land use plan faces many hurdles

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Number 63
Spring 2006

Master land use plan faces many hurdles

The first round of public hearings on a comprehensive new plan to regulate how land is used throughout Puerto Rico was held by the Puerto Rico Planning Board on March 24, 25, and 27, 2006.

Comments received from participating governmental bodies, municipalities, and the general public will be used by the Planning Board to revise the Preliminary Draft of the Puerto Rico Land Use Plan ("PUT," by its Spanish acronym) at which time a new round of hearings will take place. The second round of public hearings on the draft PUT is slated for June, 2006. A third round will take place in August, 2006, after which approval of the final plan is scheduled for November 30, 2006.

Act No. 550

Pursuant to Act No. 550 of October 3, 2004, the Land Use Plan Office of the Planning Board is looking for comments on the Preliminary Draft of the PUT, including the corresponding Soil Classification Maps and its implementing regulation (Planning Regulation No. 29). The controversy surrounding the approval process stems from a highly-publicized lack of funds and assigned personnel which undoubtedly hampered the agency's efforts to prepare-in a span of less than two years-an all-encompassing document that accounts for current and future uses of land in Puerto Rico. The result is an ambitious, albeit incomplete and inaccurate, first draft master plan that generated a lot of interest, not to mention criticism, from developers, municipalities, politicians, agronomists, manufacturers, industry, and environmentalists alike.

Land use classifications

Briefly, the draft PUT establishes four major land use classifications, each having a distinct set of restrictions to future uses. The proposed classifications, in increasing level of protection, are:

Urban Land: Acreage having the necessary infrastructure in place to advance administrative, economic and social activities, including the existence of roads, essential utilities, and other services. Emphasis is given to the conservation of historical, cultural and architectural structures and, most importantly, the revitalization of urban centers. Atypical Urban Land is a subclass applicable to acreage that demonstrates certain urban characteristics, but is ultimately incompatible with typical urban land uses, such as industrial or tourism projects. These lands must be located in strategic areas, and include isolated developed areas.

Future Development Land ("Suelo Urbanizable"): Acreage particularly suited for development in response to urban growth needs, but which must be directed to ensure continuity with traditional transportation corridors and maximize uses of integrated mass transportation systems. There are to types: (i) Scheduled-to be developed within four years after plan approval, and (ii) Non-scheduled-to be developed in a span of five to ten years after plan approval.

Rustic Land: Acreage protected from development due to their present or future significance for natural, agricultural, aviary and recreational uses. Two classes are considered: (i) Common-where development is not envisioned under the Urban and Future Development classifications accommodate future growth, and (ii) Specially Protected-whose location, topographical, geological, and aesthetic attributes, among others, proscribe Urban land use.

Special Planning Areas: Areas having particular natural, cultural, or scenic attributes, among others, whose protection or management is addressed through a Planning Board designation, plan or regulation.


© 2006 Goldman Antonetti