Illegally occupied public lands may be assessed

Posted on Nov 28 2000

The House of Representatives cleared two measures yesterday involving administration of public lands, including proposing fees for encroachment by private entities.

HB 12-105, offered by Rep. Rosiky F. Camacho, will require the Division of Public Lands to identify as well as to assess fees for all public lands which are being used by private individuals or establishments without any lease agreement.

According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, there is a need to establish a specific framework to generate income from unauthorized use of public lands.

While DPL has carried out steps to address this problem, the absence of legislation does not compel the agency to resolve the issue with urgency, the committee said in its report.

Since at present there is no set fee structure or policy for establishing encroachment fees, this may lead to uneven assessments and other possible inequities, it added.

“This bill will resolve this potential problem,” stated the report which endorsed the proposal.

HB 12-168, on the other hand, will craft policies relating to the care and upkeep of both public lands which are leased to businesses, and any other public land adjacent to that a business owner may derive some collateral benefit without paying lease.

It is intended to instruct DPL to make as a condition of entering into a lease agreement or renewing a deal that maintenance of public lands and adjacent property is a requirement.

“We feel that this measure will help keep our island clean and well maintained, and will not present unreasonable burdens on businesses,” said a separate committee report of the Natural Resources Committee.

The legislation, sponsored by Mr. Camacho, was re-drafted by the panel after the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, Marianas Visitors Authority and the hotel association opposed the original proposal due to unrealistic terms and conditions.

Both bills are now up for Senate voting. (Benhur C. Saladores)

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