A hardware store in Susupe has been given two years to build a parking space for its customers or pay a fine to the Zoning Office.
Hong Ye Hardware was issued a notice of violation by the Zoning Office for failure to build ample parking space as required by the company's approved conditional use permit and the zoning law.
The store, located along Beach Road in Susupe and across the Bank of Saipan, was issued a conditional use permit in September 2010.
Owner Zheng Shao-Wei, through representative Gregorio Camacho, asked the board to consider waiving the $2,250 fine for two years, which the company requested during a meeting and public hearing on Jan. 17.
In attendance at the meeting were board chair Diego Blanco, secretary Gus Kaipat, members Mable Ayuyu and Bruce Bateman, board counsel Teresita Sablan, Zoning Office staff, and office counsel Kate Fuller. Board vice chair Herman Sablan and treasurer Alice Igitol were both off-island.
Zoning administrator Therese T. Ogumoro said in an interview that the board asked Hong Ye Hardware to justify the two-year period they requested to address their violation.
Per Ogumoro, Camacho explained that the company cannot afford at the moment to have the front portion of its store knocked down to accommodate the required parking space.
“They said they're experiencing some financial hardships and they need to find a place where they can relocate the hardware supplies and materials to go through the process of constructing the parking space,” she told Saipan Tribune.
According to Ogumoro, Camacho also informed the board that Hong Ye Hardware had an oversight of the conditions of their zoning permit and that they are having difficulties in organizing their personnel due to new immigration laws.
After hearing the testimonies, the board decided to grant the request for a two-year period, which began last Thursday. The board said this will allow Hong Ye Hardware to comply with the permit terms and conditions, undergo the permitting process in building the parking space and find a site where they can temporarily relocate the store's construction materials and hardware supplies.
Ogumoro disclosed that she was asked by board chair Blanco why the office took its time to act against the store or why it did not put a stop to the project early on to avoid penalties.
She replied that the Zoning Office had changed management on multiple occasions and that it was only last year that the staff began to aggressively inspect and enforce all conditional use permits.
“Hong Ye Hardware is one of the first establishments that we've inspected. We expect to continue our inspections in the coming days,” she added.
Ogumoro noted that they are looking at inspecting about 35 businesses that have been issued conditional use permits in the last three years, plus a few more since the enactment of the Saipan Zoning Law in 2008.
Besides the conditional use permits, the Zoning Office also needs to conduct other enforcement activities on new structures, unpermitted structures and signs, other violations that have popped up overnight, as well as public complaints that they receive.
“Our enforcement actions are really dependent on our office's capability to have enough enforcement officers,” Ogumoro emphasized.
She said the Zoning Office currently has only one enforcement officer assisted by the administrator and zoning planner and is now in the process of hiring another one.
Ogumoro said several individuals have expressed interest to apply for the position, and the Zoning Office will accept applications until 4:30pm today.