06 Oct 2017
- By Junhan B. Todiño – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
DESPITE concerns, the Zoning Board approved Haohe LCC’s request to rezone nine properties in Oleai from village commercial to tourist resort zoning district.
The properties are owned by David Sablan and leased to investor Yixiao Zhang, who plans to construct a hotel resort in the area.
Zoning Office and board legal counsel Kate Fuller said in most jurisdictions they do not rezone the properties belonging to one person.
“I am slightly concerned because when you rezone a property of one person it’s kind of a classic instant spot-zoning that we generally try to avoid,” Fuller said.
The lots are located north of the track and field between Teer Drive and Oleai Street on the east side of Beach Road, directly across from the former Borja Funeral Home.
Prior to voting, Zoning Board member Mariano Taitano asked Fuller about the potential legal ramifications of approving the rezoning request.
“There’s no personal liability,” Fuller replied. “What could happen is somebody could sue for spot-zoning and win and the rezone would be ineffective.”
She said the Zoning Board will still go through the process of submitting its recommendation to the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation to act on the rezoning request.
Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero said while the legislative delegation has the authority to rezone, the Zoning Board has the expertise to determine the compatibility of the zone to certain development projects.
“I don’t want Mr. Sablan to come to the delegation to lobby for a rezone. The third senatorial district has the authority but we don’t want that practice anymore because there’s an existing Zoning Board that can do this the right way,” Guerrero said.
In the past, he added, some districts were rezoned but no one questioned it in court.
“This is private land,” he said, referring to the Oleai properties. “But what if this were public land? Let’s not play the ping pong game here.”
Steve Sablan, one of the property owners, questioned the board action’s 2013 approving of the rezoning of a property along Beach Road and adopted the recommendation of the zoning office to include the rezoning of all village-commercial properties close to the lot for which an application was submitted.
He was referring to the properties formerly occupied by Borja Funeral Home, Alexander Realty and adjacent lots next to the beach that were rezoned from village commercial to tourist resort.
“I don’t understand how those people got rezoned when they are not even asking for it, and we are asking for it,” he asked.
Zoning Board vice chair Bruce Bateman said he understands the intent of the rezoning request which is to address the shortage of hotel rooms on island.
David Sablan said they’ve asked the Zoning Board to rezone his property “because I see the need for an additional hotel.”
He added, “Don’t castigate me for what I want to do with the property that I own. I am speaking based on my experience.”
Zhang said he has been on Saipan for 27 years and he know the need for more hotel rooms, especially now that the economy is improving.
“This property is perfectly good for a tourist resort,” he said, adding that their project is near the hotels in the Susupe area.
David Sablan said they want to open a hotel resort that will provide employment to local residents, especially those who reside in Oleai and nearby areas.
The investor is planning to develop a 200-room hotel and condominium in two buildings that will be built on the 90,000-square meter property.
In its recommendation to the board, the zoning staff said rezoning the lots to tourist resort zoning district “will not be compatible to the uses of the immediate surrounding areas which are zoned as village commercial and village residential.”
Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro said under current law, a hotel or planned development can still be permitted within a village commercial zoning district as a conditional use with a height of up to 48 ft to 58 ft. with structured parking.
She said the zoning “staff is ready to help guide the applicants with their proposed development to stay in accordance with the requirements of the current village commercial zone.”
The village commercial zone acts as a buffer to the lower level of uses within a village residential zone, she added.
“It accommodates low to medium density residential development and intends to be compatible with the pedestrian and family-oriented character of nearby residential neighborhoods in the village.”
Ogumoro said rezoning the areas, which are within close proximity to the village commercial and village residential zone, will create significant impacts, especially on the quiet to moderate atmosphere of the residential neighborhood and surrounding properties on the north and east sides.
The zoning staff said the area being proposed for rezoning is surrounded by a public high school and sports complex on the south, park and commercial businesses on the west, residential homes, retail stores and commercial businesses on the north, and residential homes and a public elementary school on the east.
The applicant intends to construct a hotel and condominium over the height limit of 48 to 58 ft. within the village commercial zoning district.
Under current law a hotel will be permitted within a tourist resort zoning district with a height of up to 160 ft.
The Zoning Board unanimously approved the rezoning request. Bruce Bateman, Joel Camacho, Joe Ayuyu Jr. and Mariano Taitano all voted in favor. The board chairman, Diego Blanco, was absent.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/99106-zoning-board-ok-s-rezoning-request-for-oleai-properties