Rep. JP Sablan: Zoning office can recommend but can’t tell delegation what to do

REPRESENTATIVE John Paul Sablan, chairman of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, said the zoning office can make recommendations but it can’t tell the delegation what to do.

Sablan was responding to a letter from Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro regarding the delegation’s recent actions on rezoning measures.

“I am writing to assure you that we, the delegation, are indeed respectful of the process by which public and private properties within the Third Senatorial District are zoned,” Sablan said in his letter to Ogumoro.

John Paul Sablan

He noted that most of the proposed changes to the zoning code came from the zoning board.

“As your letter points out, ‘the appropriate procedure to follow for any rezone requests is to allow the zoning office to receive and assess the details of the applications and make formal recommendations to the Legislature.’ As you know, of all proposed changes to the zoning code, approximately 90 percent of such changes originated from the zoning board. The other 10 percent of the changes consist of changes that the delegation has thoroughly reviewed and properly considered.”

Sablan added, “Keep in mind that the zoning office simply makes recommendations. It does not dictate to the delegation. Moreover, every change that we have effectuated has come after ample opportunity for public comments during legislative sessions that are noticed not less than 72 hours and televised live on TV. Therefore, we feel confident that the changes that have been made through this process are far from arbitrary.”

Sablan also debunked claims that changes in district boundaries may only be initiated by the zoning board, the administrator or through an application submitted to the zoning office and board.

He said the law actually states that “changes may be initiated by the zoning board, the zoning administrator, or by application of a person to the zoning board.”

“While the delegation would never initiate a zoning change,” Sablan said, “we could adopt changes under the right circumstances because even a casual reading of section 7242 (a) reveals that while the zoning board may initiate changes, the statute neither expressly nor implicitly states that the power to initiate said changes lies exclusively with the zoning board.”

Sablan said Ogumoro’s letter “mentions that you look forward to a more harmonious relationship.”

On behalf of the delegation, Sablan said, “I can honestly say that we do too. Therefore, in the future, please feel free to review all legislative notices and agenda for items that you and your office may deem significant and kindly perform your duties as you see fit. Your office is always welcome, as is any member of the public or private sector that feels the need to make comments on proposed legislative zoning changes.”

According to Sablan, “We have never turned the zoning board away from any of our sessions but for the record, the [delegation] does not need to officially invite your agency or advise zoning to comment on proposed zoning changes. Aside from our compliance with the Open Government Act, it is not our duty to request your attendance each and every time we conduct business.”

He said the delegation “does not appreciate your opinion regarding how you feel the delegation has acted in May 2016, Sept. 2017, or relative to any time for that matter. We take our responsibility very seriously and quite frankly we take issue with the characterization of our actions as ‘arbitrary.’ Keep in mind that with 18 members from the CNMI House of Representatives and three members from the CNMI Senate, the delegation is fully capable of making sound non-arbitrary policy decisions with or without the input of your office.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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