Zoning Board starts discussing proposed text, map amendments

THE installation of a communication tower should be screened from public view using decorative materials.

This was among the proposed text and map amendments introduced by the zoning administration staff during the Zoning Board meeting on Thursday.

For Section 414 of the Saipan Zoning Act of 2013 for utility uses, it was also proposed that there should be no more than one tower per building.

“Each tower shall be 250 feet away from another tower. The height requirement including the building’s height for each zoning district will be applied,” according to one of the proposed text amendments presented by Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro.

But the following will be allowed: commercial transmission and reception towers and accessory equipment and buildings designed to appear like trees, flag poles or similar uses, or those that are designed to be an integral part of another permitted structure such as an existing building, water tower or church steeple.

On Thursday, the Zoning Board headed by Diego Blanco conducted its initial discussion on the proposed text and map amendments to the zoning law that were presented by Ogumoro during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting.

Blanco said the board will continue discussing the proposed text and map amendments and will also get feedback from community members during the public comment portion of the board meetings.

He said the board will also bring the issue to the public through a series of outreach events in various places.

Afterward, they will come up with a final draft that they will submit for approval to the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, Blanco said.

In the meantime, he added, “we continue to accept public comments.”

Ogumoro said the proposed text and map amendments they presented to the board were based on their direct experience and interaction with their clients and inputs from zoning planners.

During the meeting on Thursday, zoning legal counsel Kate Fuller noted that the rural zone comprises most areas of the island.

“There are several things that are allowed in rural but not allowed in mixed commercial. It just seems to me that you are turning the rural area, the biggest zone on the island, into kind of free for all — almost every use will be allowed in a rural area,” she told the board.

Zoning Board chairman Diego Blanco presides over a meeting as Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro presents the proposed text, map amendments to the zoning law on Thursday. Photo by Junhan B. Todino

Mixed commercial is the second most extensive use based on the zoning law, she added.

Fuller said one of the purposes of zoning an area rural is to prevent the urban zone from “spawning.”

“I am not saying not to develop the island but we should develop it in an orderly way,” she said.

Blanco asked why most of the areas on Saipan have been zoned as rural.

Archeologist Randy Harper, for his part, said the board should consider developing a land use plan for Saipan.

“There so many things happening in Marpi and a land use plan should be taken into consideration,” Harper said, adding that cultural sites and various natural and historical landmarks are located in the area.

Zoning Board member Mario Taitano said the Department of Public Lands is tasked to create a land use plan.

Another community member, Betty Johnson, suggested redistricting the rural zones of Saipan.

In an interview, Blanco said they won’t need a consultant to upgrade the zoning law.

“The experts are now in the zoning office,” he said, as he expressed dismay with the initial zoning code created by a consultant from Florida who, he added, “doesn’t know about dealing with the island of Saipan.”

Blanco said there will be another meeting to allow more members of the public to make comments.

“I myself don’t agree with all of the proposed amendments,” he added as he reiterated the need to rezone areas close to the sea in Marpi so that only tourist-development projects are allowed there.

But he said they should also preserve historical and conservation sites as well as mitigation banking in Marpi.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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