Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Arroyo Salado Church construction project begins in the DR.

For over a year, Arroyo Salado Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic has been holding worship services in the open air "ruins" of its old building. The government condemned and tore down half of the old church building to make way for improvements to the highway that runs in front of the building. The remains of the old building formed a rough "band shell" that the congregation has been using for outdoor worship in good weather.

Pastor Cristian Aquino Encarnacion expressed excitement that the construction of the new church and parsonage is now finally underway. The work is scheduled to be completed within 90 days. The project is being supervised by a local contractor with the work being carried out by laborers and a number of volunteers from the Arroyo Salado Church. Church members are cooking meals for the workers over an open fire at the work site. The construction cost of RD $2,000,000 pesos (about US $58,000) will be paid in full with funds given by the government to compensate the national church for the loss of its old building.

The national leadership of the Church of the Brethren in the DR now requires that title for land be obtained before construction is authorized. This explains why it took over a year to find land suitable for the reconstruction of the Arroyo Salado Church. In addition, there was a high demand for every available lot, because many other homes and businesses in Arroyo Salado were also forced to relocate due to the road project. However, once land was found, the process of obtaining clear title for it took several additional months to complete.

This emphasis on getting clear title to the land represents a change in policy for the Dominican Brethren. As a result, work teams from the Church of the Brethren in the United States wanting to come to the DR to help with building projects may find that projects need to be delayed until clear title to land is obtained. This is a much lengthier bureaucratic process than the relatively quick title transfer common in the US, however new Dominican laws have reduced the process of title transfer to two to three months if no complications are found.

The change in policy by the Dominican church has been made because the church has run into some difficulties with church buildings built on land without title. In the DR, it is possible to purchase land with a simple notarized hand-written sales contract. While these contracts are common and recognized as legal, the practice is nonetheless risky since former owners or their heirs may still have some legal claim to the property. In addition, these hand-written contracts are notoriously riddled with errors, adding to the legal vulnerability of the current owner.

-- Irvin Heishman is co-coordinator of the Church of the Brethren mission in the Dominican Republic.

Source: 3/12/2009 Newsline Special

No comments: