• The San Juan Daily Star

DNER consultant: Rincón pool construction go-ahead was ill-advised

Puerto Rico Engineers & Land Surveyors Association President Juan Alicea Flores (Photo by Johanna Sánchez)

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Although the controversial construction of a private swimming pool and recreation area at the Sol y Playa condominium in Rincón remains on hold after the Puerto Rico Planning Board ordered last month to stall the project amid permitting irregularities, a contractor from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) testified Wednesday during a public hearing in the House of Representatives that the construction project on Almendros Beach should never have been approved.

During a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee, surveyor Carlos Vega Santos addressed “those on the street, those on foot” to indicate that, without taking into consideration the demarcation that was approved under the proposal of former contractor and environmental consultant Ángel Román Más or by engineer Israel Colón, “that construction should never have been approved by the government.”

“The demarcation, no matter if it was correct or incorrect, the permit was not applicable … the joint regulation was not carried out as it should have been,” he said.

Vega Santos also acknowledged that he was pressured because “the position and experience” of his boss, surveyor Gerardo Ramos, director of the DNER Surveying Division, “prevailed.” Ramos, he said, gave the instruction to sign the demarcation document that endorsed the reconstruction of the recreational area of the condominium.

“I noticed the inconsistencies from the first moment,” Vega Santos said. “I raised a flag, but even so, the process continued, and that is the agency’s practice.”

Likewise, the surveyor called on Permits Management Office (OGPe by its Spanish acronym) Auxiliary Director Gabriel Hernández to evaluate how the entity awards categorical exclusions for construction projects as, he said, “it has been prostituted.”

“They [OGPe] went over the DNER; this case never went under the agency’s consideration,” he said. “They have their environmental division, there should have been a recommendation from the agency that never arrived to us. They bypassed it.”

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Engineers and Surveyors Association (CIAPR by its Spanish initials) President Juan Alicea Flores stressed that only licensed surveyors and authorized engineers can carry out demarcations in Puerto Rico.

“Given what happened with Ángel Román Más, who is neither an engineer nor a surveyor and who is a hydrologist, under no circumstances could he have performed the demarcation or subcontracted another engineer to do it,’’ Alicea Flores said.

The CIAPR president said the demarcation was automatically null and void, intermediaries are not accepted and both Román Más and the engineer he hired to carry out the process are exposed to sanctions for misconduct.

“It is questionable, everything that was happening in a project like this, and where many things in relation to the permits should be reviewed,’’ Alicea Flores added.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Edgardo Feliciano Sánchez confirmed meanwhile that the committee is about to finalize a second report with the findings from the investigation ordered under the resolution and will send it to CIAPR so the professional association can take action with the people involved.

Likewise, Feliciano Sánchez told the STAR that the committee would be consulting with the Puerto Rico Bar Association to determine if DNER Secretary Rafael Machargo Maldonado’s agreement with the housing complex does not contain any conflict as the dispute continues to be adjudicated in court.

This statement comes after the DNER reached an agreement earlier this month with the condominium holders in Rincón who want to install a fence between the shoreline and the building to prevent sea turtle nesting in the area where the stalled construction is located.

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