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How are coastal public properties defined and what is the status of their occupancy today?
 
Defining coastal public properties
Public properties are defined in Decision 144/D, which was issued by the High Commissioner of the Republic of France to Syria, Greater Lebanon, the Alawis and the Mountain of the Druze on June 10, 1925 and consists of four chapters including 26 articles.
 
According to article 1, “Public properties in Greater Lebanon and the State of Alawis comprise all things intended, owing to their nature, to be used by everyone or to serve a public interest.  They cannot be sold and no ownership over them can be acquired with time”.
 
Article 2 stipulates that “Public properties include:
    The seaside, up to the farthest distance that waves can reach in winter in addition to sand and gravel beaches... as well as those saline lakes adjoining the sea...
    The ports, marine terminals and bays...”
 
As for public property occupancy, Article 14 established that the state or the municipalities may license the occupancy of their properties on a temporary, revocable and chargeable basis, particularly when the matter is associated with a certain project.
 
Article 17 stipulates that temporary occupancy licenses for these properties may be granted for a period of one year only and may be renewed by tacit consent. Said licenses may be revoked upon the first request of the state without compensation. 
Occupancy of coastal public properties
Decree no. 4810, which was issued on June 24, 1966 under the presidential term of Charles Helo and the government headed by Abdullah Yafi, established the regulations of seaside property occupancy as follows:
 
    Coastal public property shall remain at the disposal of the public and no right, in favor of anyone, shall be derived from it authorizing its closure for a personal or private interest.
 
Allowing the designation of part of the beach for the use of individuals or groups and limiting this usufruct to them shall be an exception that may only be implemented in special cases under the following general grounds:
 
General grounds imposed where exploitation of the seaside is approved:
 
    The intended project must bear a public aspect and must have justifications for tourism or industry according to the licenses issued by the relevant authorities (Higher Council for Urban Planning).
 
    The requested investment should not prevent the integrity of the beach in cases where there are areas that must remain accessible to the public.  
 
    Permanent facilities may not be erected on coastal public property except for those relating to sporting and organizational equipment and the associated ancillaries that must be found near the beach, provided that the Ground Exploitation Coefficient of said equipment is no more than 5% and the building rises no more than 6 meters in height, with a maximum Total Exploitation Coefficient of 0.075%.
 
    Depending on its intended use, the project should be established in the zones classified for tourism/hotels or industry, in accordance with the regulations governing Lebanese beaches. The maps annexed with Decree no. 4809 dated June 24, 1966 are considered part and parcel of this Decree.)
 
    The exploitation of coastal public property for industrial projects is not permissible except in the zones designated for this purpose and which, in their nature, require exploitation of coastal public properties. The exploitation shall be limited to the surface area necessary for the facilities bound to reach seawater, within the percentages specified above. 
 
    The suggested project should observe technicalities and justifications showing the areas designated for each kind of sports, the proportion of surface area covered by the swimmers’ locker rooms, free spaces on private properties as well as the free spaces for each person. The project should also observe traffic flow, the parking lots designated for clients and other equipment and proportions, all within the rates determined by the administration.
 
    The license seeker should own a property neighboring the coastal public area he wishes to occupy. Public roads and railroads shall not be considered a separator between private properties and coastal public properties in cases where the relevant authority authorizes the crossing of said roads or railroads through a tunnel or a bridge. 
 
The coastal public area intended for occupation should be, at best, twice as big as the private adjacent property and its facade should not be greater than that of the adjacent property. However, pursuant to Decree no. 7464 dated October 30, 1995, the following amendment was added:
    By virtue of a decree issued in the Cabinet upon the proposition of the Minister of Public Works and Transport, the water surface area intended for occupation may be increased beyond the permissible rate, provided that the property area is no less than 20,000 square meters and the license is granted for a first-class  tourist project.
 
    If there is a public road leading to the sea, the coastal public property stretching along 50 meters from road axis may not be occupied and this space must remain for the public. 
 
Current status of the occupied areas 
Pursuant to the aforementioned legal texts, the occupied areas of the coastal public property may be divided into five sections totaling combined (water surface + reclaimed area) 4,901,726 m2 of which 2,365,938 m2 or roughly 48% are licensed. The remaining 2,535,788 m2 or 52% are illegal and unlicensed as illustrated in tables 1 and 2.
1.    Occupancies legalized by official decrees
2.    Occupancies legalized  by official decrees but the occupants have overstepped their occupancy permits
3.    Illegal occupancies by occupants with a private adjacent property conforming to legal requirements
4.    Illegal occupancies by occupants who do own a private adjacent property but non-conforming to legal requirements
5.    Illegal occupancies by occupants who do not own any private adjacent property 
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. Occupancies legalized by official decrees
The Lebanese government issued 73 decrees licensing the occupancy of coastal public properties totaling 2,365,938 m2, including 1,515,215 m2 of reclaimed areas and a water body of 850,723 m2, distributed as illustrated in Table 3:
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The largest license in terms of occupied surface area was granted to Sté Huiles et Dérivés SAL in Selaata at 207,000 m2, followed by the Development of Lebanese Shores Company in Kfarabida, Batroun at 199,000 m2 as illustrated in Table 4.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
2. Occupants overstepping their occupancy permits
Of the 73 entities and individuals who have obtained licenses to occupy costal public properties, 20 have overstepped the area established in their occupancy permits (2.3 million m2) by roughly 232,000 m2 as illustrated in Table 5.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The largest transgression was made by the  Sté Huiles et Dérivés SAL in Selaata, which encroached upon 41,000 m2 followed by Las Salinas in Anfeh at 27,000 m2 as illustrated in Table 6.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3. Encroachments by occupants with a private adjacent property conforming to legal requirements
These kinds of violations are reconcilable because they are committed by occupants who own neighboring plots of land that fulfill the legal requirements established in Decree 4810. These encroachments total 26 and cover an area of 119,272 m2 as illustrated in Table 7.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Foremost among these encroachments are the intrusions made by Solemar beach resort in Zouk Mikhael and by Marina Del Sol resort in Koura as illustrated in Table 8.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4. Encroachments by occupants with a private adjacent property non-conforming to legal requirements
These encroachments were committed by occupants who possess neighboring plots of land, but these plots do not meet the legal requirements stipulated in Decree 4810. The number of this kind of intrusions is 431 covering an area of roughly 1.5 million m2 as illustrated in Table 9.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In terms of surface area, the greatest intrusion was made by North Marina Company in Ras Masqa, which occupies 123,000 m2 as illustrated in Table 10. 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
5. Encroachments on both public and private property 
These encroachments were made by people who do not own any private properties close to the coastal public areas they are occupying, which is considered a serious transgression against both public and private properties. These encroachments totaled 530 covering a total area of roughly 615,000 m2 as illustrated in Table 11.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Largest among these encroachments is the intrusion made by a company in Dbayeh into roughly 54,000 m2 for a tourist project. Another 58,000 m2 are encroached upon by an agriculture project in Tyre as illustrated in Table 12.
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
شاهد الجدول كاملا
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NB: The names mentioned in the tables above are by no means intended to offend the occupants and are faithfully cited as reported by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. 
 
Revenues
The occupancy of these large beachfront properties, whether licensed or not, fails to bring in the revenues commensurate with the value of the occupied areas, either because of the failure to collect fees from illegal occupants or because the occupancy fees imposed on legal ones are too low. The latter seems rational for many find it absurd that they should pay the state lavish amounts while unlicensed occupants refrain from paying and await a new law that would regularize and resolve their status. Some estimates put the revenues expected from the settlement at USD 500 million and others at roughly USD 5 billion to USD 8 billion, which brings the figure to an average of USD 1 billion to USD 2 billion. The law has been awaited for more than 25 years (since the end of the Civil War) and it is unlikely that it will see the light in the coming years because the encroachers are mostly men of power or people backed by men of power. 
 
The 2015 draft budget law made no mention of any revenues from the occupancy of coastal properties. However, according to figures from previous draft budget laws, the average expected revenues amounted to roughly LBP 20 billion, while actual revenues did not exceed LBP 1 billion to LBP 2 billion annually.
 
While the state goes out of its way to impose new taxes or increase existing ones to cover the growing expenses, roughly 5 million m2 of coastal public properties remain usurped by a class of influential politicians to the detriment of the Treasury and the citizens. In its decision dated 18/12/2014 into the case brought by Sultana Frangieh against the Interior Ministry and the Naoura Real Estate Company, the Shura Council emphasized  “that the administrative and judicial sanctions shall be made without prejudice to the right of the administration to claim compensation for damage and bring down the works set up on illegal properties or easement areas automatically and without the need  for a transaction. 


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