Nikki Beach Hvar: In Sućuraj, Arguments About Who Can Sell Their Land to Investors

By 16 August 2015

A 270 million euro investment with 500 permanent jobs, on hold since 2007. The Nikki Beach Hvar latest.

The story with the purchase of land in Sućuraj for the construction of the largest hotel and apartment complex in the Adriatic is nearing its end. Judging from the reports from the state institutions, the amendments to the municipal spatial plan of Sućuraj have received the required majority and have been green-lighted by local councillors, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on August 16, 2015.

Construction zones cannot be further expanded and Prima Property Croatia Nekretnine, the investor which includes Norwegian capital, has bought all the land it needs. Some of the land around Sućuraj is reserved for pasture and is practically worthless, while other plots have suddenly become worth a hundred euros per square metre.

Since the wrangling about which plots the construction will be allowed on is now finished, PPC Nekretnine can start the process of obtaining permits for the construction of hotels and apartments. However, there is always a catch – this time it is the issue of land ownership. And, since many owners live in the Americas and since sometimes it is not clear who has inherited the land from previous generations, it is a mess which will be very hard to untangle.

"We cannot start while the issue of land ownership is not solved. Many of those who have received the down payments for the land do not have title deeds for their plots. Since the state, through the State Attorney's Office and the courts, has to take part in proving ownership of land, it will certainly take a long time. Everything would go a lot quicker if it were up to the municipality of Sućuraj, but the laws say that the state is the key participant in the process. Many of the people who have received down payments for the plots are just people who use the land and who claim that it has always been theirs, because their ancestors used to cultivate it. Everyone who could prove that they are the owners has been paid in full, while the others were given just the down payment. The contracts with them will be signed once they get a title deed", explained Jerko Trogrlić, a spokesman for PPC Nekretnine. "The investors have enough land for the project. Perhaps some small plots will still be bought, but in general, there is enough land for the hotel and apartment complex. Now, everything is in the hands of state institutions which have to prove land ownership in each separate case."

The biggest problem at the moment is the fact that the process of proving the ownership will certainly take years. The state is also trying to prove that it is the owner of some plots which are of interest to the investors. This will further complicate things, so the destiny of the whole project in uncertain.

There is a real chance that it will be proven that some of the plots belong to the state, even though some people have already received down payments for them. In these cases, they will have to return the money. However, since local people are quick to spend their money, the question is what will happen if they suddenly have to return the already spent money.

Some landowners will get the title deeds sooner, some later, and some never, because it will be established that the land for which they received the down payment is not theirs nor their ancestors', as they have been deceiving themselves and others for years.

Meanwhile, the passions in the town are running high. Cousins, brothers, friends... people are arguing because some plots have been included in the construction zones, while others have been left out. The law limits the percentage of land which can be devoted to tourism, construction, etc., so it is simply impossible to please everybody. Some say that many of those who got their wishes are connected to political parties, from HDZ on the right to HNS on the left.

Those who are dissatisfied claim that the plan is drawn illogically, since some areas which are situated along the coast were deliberately skipped and replaced with the plots in the hills, where hotels and apartments are to be built. This was apparently done so that the investor could cheaply buy the plots, since the hills are cheaper that the land closer to the sea. But, what has been done is done, since no new amendments to the plans are possible.

Ante Vuljan from Sućuraj, whose plot was included in the construction zone before it was later excluded, believes that the whole business was done according to who belongs to which political party. "HDZ is doing this! Everything is clear. I am not one of them, I am too old to change myself, so they threw my plot out of the construction zone, and threw in the plots of their party members, fathers, friends, families... My plot is right in the middle of the hotel zone, but they have illogically isolated it, so it is now worthless, even though it is only two hundred metres from the Perna Bay! An investor representative called my wife and told her that this plot was a priority for them, but later the new HDZ authorities in Sućuraj have erased it from the plan, and there is nothing we can do now", said Vuljan.

Family and neighbourly ties among people of Sućuraj have deteriorated to such an extent that they may never be rebuilt. And, that is the worst thing in this whole affair, because people have lost their faith in other people, and it cannot be measured by money.