The Commonwealth Ports Authority directed Bridge Investment Group LLC yesterday to immediately stop after finding out that BIG is building a casino, a restaurant, and VIP rooms at a building on Tinian that CPA had authorized only for a ferry terminal.
CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio said in his report during the CPA board meeting yesterday that he sent a notice to BIG project manager Ray Pangelinan about the company’s violations of its lease agreement with CPA.
Tenorio said that Pangelinan confirmed last Friday that BIG is, in fact, building those projects.
In CPA’s notice to cease and desist, it demanded that BIG stop any and all unapproved work immediately. “Until such time that CPA has received, reviewed, and approved plans, any and all work on CPA property shall cease immediately,” Tenorio told BIG.
BIG is building the Tinian Ocean View Resort & Casino. In March 2019, BIG and Wyndham Hotel Group held a hotel management signing ceremony for the Wyndham Hotel brand to create a Tinian luxury hotel.
Tenorio disclosed later in an interview that personnel from the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality and Coastal Resources Management Office and the CPA Tinian port manager inspected the leased property last week and found non-compliance.
Tenorio said that, according to BECQ, they have issued a stop order and then he also issued the letter to BIG for violations and the notice to stop operations until such time that CPA receives plans and review everything.
“Once everything is approved, then they can proceed with the project,” he said.
In the letter and notice, the executive director told Pangelinan that CPA will be contacting him for an enforcement/permit monitoring meeting that will include the CRMO and BECQ.
Tenorio said BIG converted or intended to convert the ferry terminal into a casino gaming facility/restaurant and VIP rooms without CPA approval. He said BIG is constructing the casino gaming facility/restaurant/VIP rooms without a proper permit from CRMO and BECQ. Tenorio said BIG is also building or initiating the construction of a dormitory without CPA authorization.
The executive director said the violations were found during recent inspections of the leased premises by the Tinian Ports manager, discussions with BIG personnel and contractor, and talks with CNMI permitting agencies BECQ and CRMO.
Tenorio said BIG has not obtained an amended CRM or BECQ Individual Wastewater Disposal System permit for the changed use.
He said BIG has initiated construction of a dormitory on the leased premises and obtained a permit for the earthmoving for that dormitory—all without securing a prior notice and prior approval and authorization by CPA.
Pursuant to the lease agreement between BIG and CPA, BIG is in violation of its lease agreement, particularly provisions that state that “all structural improvements or renovations shall be approved by [CPA],” he said.
He said BIG only submitted plans and specifications for a ferry terminal to CPA. With that, Tenorio said, CPA is unaware and has not seen any other plans and specifications for any other project. He said BIG continues to make improvements without the CPA’s approval and, as a result, is in direct violation of its lease agreement.
“Given all of these, CPA issues a notice of default and breach of the lease upon BIG,” Tenorio said, and demands that the company cure this breach.
CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said in an interview that there has been an ongoing dialogue with BIG with regard to the issue of the septic tank and that CPA reached out to BECQ to find out what’s going on. “Why is the casino only permitted for a septic tank? They should be permitted for a waste treatment facility, given the location of the project,” King-Hinds said.
Apparently, she said, the application that was submitted to BECQ is supposed to be commercial terminal, which is not the same as what is now being built on Tinian, which is a fullblown casino.
“Instead, they got permitted for a septic tank which is not acceptable for that location. It is right by Kammer Beach. It’s where the community goes and hangs out,” King-Hinds said.