The Department of Public Land is identifying public lands in the CNMI and seeking the public’s opinion on how to utilize these lands based on the Comprehensive Land Use study currently being conducted by civil engineer and project manager Roy Reyes from SSFM CNMI, LLC
Speaking at the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general meeting yesterday, Reyes shared updates to the business community on where his team is now in terms of collating the Comprehensive Land Use Plan together.
“What we are doing is collecting a lot of information and looking at existing legislations that are currently being proposed that affect public land use. We are looking at seeking comments from the general public, business community, and basically since this involves public land everyone is a stakeholder. We are trying to reach as much people as we can to get some feedback on how to best put this study together,” he said.
According to Reyes, the Comprehensive Land Use study aims to so have an inventory of public and private lands, their current statuses and determine if current GIS (geographic information system) mapping system and software is adequate.
Reyes added that the study also aims to understand and report current statutes, regulations, public outreach and intergovernmental coordination, analyze current economics, population, demographics, sociology-economic status and trends, and forecast future land requirements over a 10-year build-out.
“We are looking at the entire CNMI that is why we are also looking at the Northern Islands which I understand is 100 percent public land. We are hearing desires of putting homesteads out there and other concerns of developing a marina and sports. We are actually planning a trip to the Northern Islands depending on the weather,” he said.
The timeframe of completing the plan is from September this year to September 2018. Public participation is encouraged through public hearings, public comments, and stakeholder surveys.
“We started reaching out to the public with our public hearings which is our data collection phase starting Sept. 18. We are scheduled to get another public hearing in March next year. Prior to that meeting, we intend to have a public use draft already that everyone can have the chance to review and hopefully provide more feedback,” Reyes said.
“What we don’t want to do come March is we don’t want to present a plan that everyone says that’s not what we want that’s why we are trying our best to reach out, get comments to make sure when we prepare the draft, we are going to put time and effort into it and write a draft that nobody wants,” he added.
Reyes said they had a meeting with individual stakeholders like the Marianas Visitors Authority, Department of Commerce, other government agencies, and some private entities such as Bank of Guam. They also discussed the matter with the governor and legislators.
“At public presentations on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota we tried to make the people understand the impacts if there are, to the general public so in the questions we posted the benefits of the plan and how it’s going to be used to shape policy and this policy will eventually affect everyone.”
“One thing we realize is that every island has different priorities. For Rota, it is farming and conservation. For Tinian, they are concerned with agricultural use to farm and ranch. On Saipan, a lot of people were concerned with over development, ” he added.
According to Reyes, they are expecting other concerns from the public that is why they will continue reaching out to get public comments to see what the real concerns are.
“Our ultimate goal is to present a land use plan that really reflects what the people wants. The more information and feedback we get, the better this land use will come into place,” he said.