What is the Federal Zone?
The laws of Mexico determine that there is a strip of land on the beach (and other protected areas) that is considered as part of the Federal Public Domain of Mexico, as is the sea along the coast of Mexico.This area comprises the full length of the beach along all of the coasts of Mexico and 20 meters in from the high tide of the sea at any one given location. The area is known as the Federal Maritime Land Zone of Mexico (ZoFeMaT = Zona Federal Maritimo Terrestre).
In this regard, the Federal Zone is considered as for the purpose of common use of the public domain of the Mexican Federal Government; with the understanding that a Federal Zone cannot be transferred, lost by possession, seized or subject to any kind of lawsuit related to its possession; In short a Federal Zone cannot be acquired.
Which are the uses for the Federal Zone?
The options to legally use of a Federal Zone are the following:
General Use (In case of business such as a restaurant or a hotel)
How can I legally use the Federal Zone?
The laws of Mexico foresee the possibility that the owners of the land located adjacent to this Zone may apply for and normally receive a concession to make use of that portion of the Zone that is adjacent to their property.
The office of government in Mexico that has direct control over these matters is the Federal General Administration of the Federal Maritime Land Zone (Dirección General de Zona Federal Maritimo Terrestre), which is part of The Federal Sub-Ministry of Natural Resources (Subsecretaría de Recursos Naturales). This latter sub-ministry is part of the National Ministry of Ecological and Natural Resources (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales all of them SEMARNAT).
There is a process to be completed to have the property assessed and declared outside the zone. If outside the zone, then it is possible to consider it private property and take title to it, but that can be changed later on if the high tide line changes again.
Any resident (company or individual) in Mexico can use a Federal Zone through a concession granted by the Mexican government, in this particular case the corresponding authority is SEMARNAT.
A foreigner owning beach front property through a Mexican corporation or through a bank trust, can apply for a concession over the Federal Zone in favor of the Mexican corporation or trustee bank holding the property, in order to use or exploit it.
How long is the term of Federal Zone Concession?
The concession can be granted for a term of up to 50 years in accordance to the applicable law, however the specific regulation for the Federal Zone provides for a term up to 20 years, and when certain conditions are fulfilled, a concession can be extended by prior request to the environmental authority.
Which are my rights by having a Federal Zone Concession?
The concession for the Federal Zone does not give to the concessionary any ownership right, i.e., that the concessionary can only use or exploit such Federal Zone in accordance to its concession title but is not an owner in any manner.
Nevertheless, if the high tide changes on your favor then you can apply for that piece of property that is no longer federal zone to become part of your property since you already are in possession of it.
On the other hand, the concession rights for a Federal Zone can be assigned (transferred) with the authorization of the environmental authority.
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