The Saipan Zoning Office disapproved on Thursday Dongbei S. Inc.’s proposal to transfer Diamond Water from Capital Hill to Gualo Rai after some Gualo Rai residents raised concerns over the possible traffic problems the transfer will bring to the area.
Zoning administrator Therese Ogumoro earlier recommended the approval of the project. In her statement to the board and members of the public at the hearing, Ogumoro said the proposed operation of water bottling processing was an allowed use within the village commercial zoning district and that the application for the proposed project has met all requirements of the zoning law.
Ogumoro said the applicant has agreed to comply with some conditions in order to mitigate impacts such as traffic, noise, or any pollution.
She said the conditions would include minimizing the number of delivery trucks, limits on the frequency of deliveries, times of operations, and confinement of all operations within the warehouse structure to limit any noise and for public safety.
Ogumoro also said the board should allow the re-use and improvement of existing buildings to discourage abandoned and blighted structures.
Ogumoro told the Gualo Rai residents that water bottling processing and some other commercial activities are uses that are allowed within the village commercial zoning districts, and if the residents prefer not to allow such uses in their areas, they would need to request the board to recommend rezoning their entire village to village residential instead.
Ogumoro made this statement in response to some residents’ comments that they don’t want this type of business in the Gualo Rai area.
Despite Ogumoro’s recommendation, all six Saipan zoning board members voted to disapprove the conditional use permit application.
Diamond Water’s Bing Zhe Jin said that transferring the facility will help the company cut costs because majority of its customers are from lower areas away from Capital Hill.
“I want to help the people at Gualo Rai so that everybody who wants low price or need water delivery for city water will have access to it,” Jin said.
Gualo Rai resident John Reyes said the business does not belong in a residential area.
“It is inconvenient for the traffic and I am building my house just across from that area. There isn’t any other nuisance except Marpac. They have a convenience store but I have no objections to that because it is good for the neighborhood,” Reyes told Zoning’s board members.
Another Gualo Rai resident, Vicente C. Camacho, said the biggest issue is traffic and safety.
“There is always a big cluster of traffic. People are getting more reckless in driving,” Camacho said.
New Gualo Rai resident, Felipe Atalig, said that Diamond Water’s transfer will result in social devastation to the community and will disrupt activities.
Jin noted that Atalig is a customer of Diamond Water but Atalig clarified that he is actually a “former customer.”
Jin also noted that Gualo Rai does not have 24-hour water service and that their company could provide that service to the community if needed.
House Vice Speaker Francisco Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) supported the Gualo Rai residents’ concerns. He asked Zoning’s board to not approve the conditional use permit.