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Friday, April 18, 2014

Zoning pushes bill to address abandoned Saipan properties

The Zoning Office is seeing an abundance of abandoned and dilapidated properties on Saipan that have become eyesores that not only blight villages but also devalue many adjacent properties.

Zoning administrator Therese Ogumoro said it’s high time that lawmakers act on the problem by getting their act together to pass a bill that would rectify this long-time concern.

It was in June last year when Ogumoro began to press for the passage of House Bill 18-71, the “Nuisance Abatement and Blighted Property Maintenance Act of 2013.” The legislation remains pending at a House committee for review.

“The [Zoning] Board and I hope the House passes this bill very soon to finally address the ongoing problem of abandoned and dilapidated properties for the interest of our islands. This concern has been ongoing but nothing was ever done to deal with it. This bill will assist greatly in resolving such concerns on these buildings and also in holding those companies and individuals having an interest in these properties to be responsible to either improve or remove them,” said Ogumoro.

Without this legislation, the number of these eyesores will continue to grow, she added.

According to Ogumoro, the bill addresses in detail the Zoning Office’s intention to address vacant and abandoned properties, with further clarification on the maintenance of these properties and enforcement procedures.

In its comment on the bill, Zoning believes it should get much of the revenue from fines and penalties from the proposed law in order to allow the office to abate public nuisances and implement the Act effectively.

“Zoning assisted the author in coming up with the bill. In my recent conversation with the author of the bill [Rep. Deleon Guerrero] and the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee [Rep. Tony Benavente] this past Tuesday, they indicated that they’re determined to act on the bill as soon as they can within this month,” Ogumoro said.

Saipan Tribune learned that the House entertained the bill after August 2013 but delegation members deferred acting on it due to concerns raised by Rota and Tinian representatives. Rota and Tinian House members wanted to clarify whether the Act will be effective on their islands since the zoning law only has jurisdiction on Saipan.

The bill went back to committee for further review.

According to Ogumoro, once enacted, the law can be applicable to all islands, unless separate zoning laws are enacted by other senatorial districts.

“The Commonwealth Code established the Zoning Board and Office and therefore this proposed Act can be applicable Commonwealth-wide, except that each of the island districts must pass its own zoning law if they decide to do so, just as the Saipan legislative delegation passed its own Saipan zoning law. Nevertheless, Rota and Tinian can choose to either exclude themselves from this Act or be included in it (under which case zoning branches can be established on both islands),” she added.

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