City officials might have to find a new site, meaning the project would start from scratch and possibly not be ready on time for test events in 2015.
The city said in response to The Associated Press it just became aware of the situation Thursday and is “evaluating the measures it will take.”
It was the first time the city officially recognized there could be an issue involving the land. It had been dismissing the prospect a legal dispute and downplaying problems
affecting the course.
A final decision on who owns the golf course land could take months or several years. There are ownership disputes throughout the posh Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, and few are resolved quickly.
American designer Gil Hanse, who will build the course, said he had not yet been notified by city officials about the dispute.
“If it was important, they would probably bring it up,” Hanse said. “We’ve been selected to do that particular job and we feel comfortable with the time frame that we have.”
Hanse said he was not worried, but acknowledged that any changes now could affect the project, which was based entirely on the land under dispute.
“If they decided for whatever reason to make changes, you would have to start all over again,” he said. “Our design is specifically for that site. You can’t just put it someplace else.”
The lawyer from the company disputing the ownership, Elmway Participacoes, says that next week he will ask for the suspension of the city’s contracts with the other company that claims to own the property in Barra.
Elmway has won a court battle that was later reversed, but company lawyer Sergio Antunes Lima Jr. says there is “more than enough” evidence available to prove the area belongs to his client.
Elmway Participacoes has been trying to claim ownership of the land for the past three years. The other alleged owner, entrepreneur Pasquale Mauro, has several properties in the region and has won many similar disputes.