Burger tycoon’s battle for building permit reveals vulnerabilities of local homeowners

The saga of an expat businessman embroiled in a dispute with the Chapala government over paperwork requirements to obtain a building permit is a cautionary tale about unexpected troubles that can crop up for anyone owning or acquiring local property.

Clifford “Trip” Wilmot, the entrepreneur behind the popular hamburger stand at the Centro Laguna mall, partnered with his elderly mother three years ago to purchase a choice view lot in Riviera Alta, with the intention of building her an idyllic home to live out her final years. The undertaking has turned into a horrific ordeal surpassing his wildest nightmares.

Last year Wilmot submitted his blue prints for review and approval by the Riviera Alta homeowner’s architectural review committee in accordance with the subdivision’s bylaws. After some adjustments, the committee gave its seal of approval and he proceeded to Chapala’s Urban Planning Department (DDU) to apply for the requisite construction license.

To his dismay, the request was officially turned down through written notice issued by Blanca García Ramírez, chief of the DDU property regularization division. He was informed that in order to get the permit he would have to present a copy of a key document that was missing from the agency’s records. The Acta de Entrega-Recepción is a standard instrument that developers should file with the city upon completing installation of basic infrastructure that makes a residential complex habitable, such as functional water supply and sewage lines, paved roadways and street lighting.

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