Zoning administrator to Saipan delegation: Respect lawful process

THE zoning procedure was apparently “bypassed” when the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation passed a bill to rezone certain districts on Saipan, according to Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro.

Since May 2016, she said the legislative delegation has been rezoning several areas without going through the required zoning process.

“I had testified in the House chamber about a rezone bill which did not go through the required zoning process, and I had asked that the delegation consult with the zoning office and follow the adopted procedures for rezones,” Ogumoro said, adding that the procedure is laid out in the Commonwealth Code.

Last week, the delegation approved House Local Bill 20-23 which will rezone a rural land area in Chalan Kiya and turn it into a mixed commercial district.

Another measure, H.L.B. 20-31, will rezone a village commercial zoning district to mixed commercial zoning district along Beach Road.

Ogumoro said while they support the Legislature’s intent to assist developers in their business ventures, the zoning office believes that the appropriate procedure is to allow the zoning office to receive and assess the details of the applications and make a formal recommendation to the Legislature.

“As an agency tasked to administer the zoning law and its official map, the zoning office has the responsibility and expertise to review proposed amendments to the law and maps and make any recommendation to the zoning board for adoption before being transmitted to the delegation for action,” she said.

On Monday, Ogumoro sent a letter to the delegation chairman, Rep. John Paul Sablan, with respect to the recent rezones approved by lawmakers.

In her letter, Ogumoro stated that under 2 CMC Section 7242 (a) of the zoning code, any changes in district boundaries may only be initiated by the zoning board, the zoning administrator, or through an application submitted to the zoning office and board.

In addition, she said, Section 7251 (a) of the code requires a public hearing to inform the public of any proposed changes to district boundaries and uses at least 30 days prior to any change.

“While we recognize that it is the Legislature’s job to pass legislation, we ask that any changes to the zoning law undergo detailed review by the zoning office and board prior to the delegation’s adoption,” Ogumoro said.

She told Sablan the full process is set out in 2 CMC Section 7242. The delegation may amend changes recommended by the zoning board, she added.

“This process ensures that nay amendments to the zoning law and maps do not take effect arbitrarily. This also ensures that all applicants and residents are heard and treated fairly,” she said.

“For these reasons, I ask for your understanding and to refer any applicants with zoning issues to this office to properly go through the process,” Ogumoro added.

She said the rezones passed on Sept. 8, 2017 repeated the arbitrary action of the delegation last year.

The zoning office, which is responsible for assessing district boundary changes, was not officially invited nor advised to comment on those changes, she added.

“Once again, I appeal to you, as the zoning administrator, for your understanding and consideration to allow zoning to review all requests for rezones and guide them through the normal process,” she said. “This process consists of the zoning office and board’s review, a public hearing to hear concerns from the public, and transmittal of zoning’s finding and recommendations to the delegation for review and action.”

Ogumoro said she is looking forward to a more harmonious relationship between the delegation and zoning office and board.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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