There is no question that the Lake Chapala area is suffering growing pains, attributed to multiple factors.
A steady influx of new inhabitants originating from the Guadalajara metropolis, other parts of Mexico and nations beyond the country’s borders has spawned growing demand for residentialproperties. As the population increases, pushing up real estate values, the native people are easily tempted to sell their homesteads, only to find themselves displaced from land and housing passed down through generations.
With its benevolent climate and other attributes that are magnets for newcomers, the Lakeside area has become a dreamscape for developers. Local governments tend to lack long-term vision to implement wise policies and strategies to manage inevitable urban sprawl, often bending the rules to cater to investors on the premise that economic benefits outweigh the downsides of unchecked growth.
Alarmed by current trends, a core group of national and foreign residents recently launched the Chimalli Axixic grassroots movement aimed at preventing devastation of undeveloped land in the neighboring mountain range and added pressure to already inadequate infrastructure and public services. While the movement has gained strong support over the past three months, concern focused on the Ajijic area is only the tip of lakeside’s looming over-development iceberg.
A case in point is a long-standing plan to turn a vast area on the northern outskirts of Chapala into a residential village designed to house up 17,000 people in nearly 4,500 constructions. If realized as such, it would occupy 450 hectares of land located in the hillsides stretched between Santa Cruz de la Soledad and San Nicolás de Ibarra, near the boundaries of Vista del Lago.
In-depth research by local journalist Manuel Jacobo reveals that the megaproject is being promoted by the Jalisco Institute of Pensions (IPEJAL) in association with two private companies operating since 2012 under the corporate name Santa Cruz Inmobiliaria de Chapala S. A. de C.V.
The complex blueprint includes 3,066 single family residences, 812 duplex homes and assisted living housing for 369 senior citizens. It also comprises a 150-room hotel, commercial mall, medical clinic, golf course, club house, equestrian field and farm to serve the residents.
Background information gathered by Jacobo indicates the acquisition of land goes back to 2009, accomplished through political manipulation and intimidation of the ejido communal land owners of Santa Cruz.
The issuance of private property titles and initial development authorizations have been facilitated by Chapala government officials during the 2012-2015 and 2015-2018 administrations as well as various state agencies. There appear to be various legal and red tape hurdles still holding back the project’s advancement.
The ground has also been laid for building another huge residential subdivision in the hills above Las Brisas, located off the Chapala-Guadalajara opposite Chapala Haciendas.
Last February the incumbent city council approved the donation of 20 hectares cut out of vast spread of open of land called Las Parras, subsequently ceded to the University of Guadalajara for construction of a Chapala campus. The donation, obligatory by law, was accepted in exchange for urbanization rights granted to Rafael Guzmán de la Fuente, the owner of Las Parras, who has submitted preliminary plans to break up his remaining acreage into plots for several thousand new homes.
Incipient residential developments are likewise spreading to Jocotepec and along Lake Chapala’s south shore.
Considering the impact on the area’s flora, fauna and natural resources, not to mention quality of life for people, it all paints a grim picture for the future of an area once prized for its quiet rural setting.