The Zoning Office is working with the Department of Public Works on what to do with abandoned buildings on island.
Zoning administrator Therese T. Ogumoro said this is part of the efforts of the Tourism Task Force, of which both Zoning Office and DPW are members.
Abandoned buildings are eyesores and Ogumoro said the legal counsels of both offices are now working on guidelines to deal with the issue.
Kate Fuller, Zoning Office legal counsel, said the office can only go after abandoned buildings as public nuisances, which is not an easy task.
Demolishing an abandoned building is also not appealing because of the cost, she added.
“The property owner is ultimately responsible but because it's going to be very expensive to demolish the building, the owner is not going to want to do it. I don't think there's going to be a desire on the part of the government generally to force those people to cough up that much money to demolish those buildings,” Fuller said during the Commonwealth Zoning Board's February meeting.
Unlike junk cars, abandoned buildings are more costly to dispose, she added.
Fuller noted that the two agencies are looking at the possibility of having a private contractor demolish abandoned buildings in exchange for giving the contractor anything of value in the building to help offset the cost of the demolition.
Another route, she said, would be DPW's building code, which has “a much simpler process” compared to Zoning's public nuisance.
Fuller added that the two agencies will have a “test case” to ensure that the appropriate process has been determined.
In other news, the Zoning Office has reported an increase in many of the permit and activity types they issued or conducted for calendar year 2012 compared to 2011.
The increase is reflected in temporary use, nonconforming registration, signs, zoning permit/variance, single family dwelling, minor site plans, home business, and conditional use.
On the other hand, there was a decline in the number of notice of violations, minor/major subdivisions, and major site plans issued and approved.
Ogumoro noted during last month's board meeting that the Zoning Office was more aggressive in its inspection and enforcement efforts in 2012 than 2011.
Asked by Saipan Tribune to expound on her 2012 operations report, Ogumoro said that more details on the report would be provided the next time the board convenes.