House panel rejects measure requiring 3 public hearings on rezoning proposals

THE House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations narrowly rejected  a measure that would have required three public hearings for any proposed rezoning of public or private  land.

Three of the committee’s five members voted to file or shelve Rep. Vinnie Sablan’s House Bill 20-6: chairman Ivan Blanco, Rep. John Paul Sablan and Rep. Joe Itibus. Two opposed shelving the bill: Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao and House Minority Leader Edmund Villagomez.

Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero, an honorary member of the committee, did not participate in the roll-call vote.

Rep. John Paul Sablan opposed the bill’s intent, saying it was a waste of resources. The current system involving the Zoning Board, which conducts a public hearing and issues a 30-day notice, is sufficient and is working effectively, he added.

Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao said the bill would provide another opportunity for members of the community to  express their concerns in the event they missed the first public hearing.

He said the measure would also serve as  a check and balance on both the Zoning Office and the Saipan legislative delegation.

“We have made a lot of amendments to the zoning law in the last couple of years,” he noted.

But Reps. Joe Itibus and Ivan Blanco agreed with Rep. John Paul Sablan.

They said if a community member misses a public hearing conducted by the Zoning Office, he or she can still attend the Saipan delegation public hearing, adding that the delegation can hold multiple hearings.

Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro was also opposed to the bill, saying they don’t believe that holding three public hearings would solve the problem of the public not being well-informed. Neither would the bill guarantee full attendance on the part of the concerned public, she added.

She said venue is  a factor as it will depend on the availability of an accessible facility such as the multi-purpose center in Susupe.

Rep. Vinnie Sablan, in an interview, said he introduced the bill to give members of the community more opportunity to weigh in on re-zoning requests and to take part in the review process.

“H.B. 20-6 does not oppose re-zoning proposals, but it aims to ensure that we hear the voices of the community especially those directly affected by certain proposals,” he added.

“If a majority of the JGO committee felt that three public hearings was too many, then they could have reduced the number to two and required that at least one hearing be held at the location requested to be re-zoned,” he said.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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