After years of delay and nearly two months of back-to-back negotiations, the Department of Public Lands finally reached an agreement with an engineering firm to start the long-overdue land use plan for the entire Commonwealth.
According to Public Lands Secretary Marianne Teregeyo yesterday, DPL awarded the contract to SSFM CNMI, LLC to spearhead the development of the land use plan.
A land use plan is a master inventory of all public lands, including their types, uses, and zoning prohibitions. It also identifies ideal sites for homesteads, community recreational sites, and business development.
“A year from now, we should have a final product,” said Teregeyo, hoping that no “unforeseen circumstances” such as typhoons occur. “We have a year on the contract. …[DPL] Procurement and Supply already issued the notice to proceed.”
Once SSFM begins, a stakeholder meeting would take place.
According to Teregeyo, it would involve all government agencies that are concerned with public lands such as Zoning, Coastal Resources Management, etc.
A second meeting would take place to include legislators, followed by a meeting for each CNMI municipality.
“There would be initial meetings for Rota and Tinian, as well as one for the people of Pågan,” said Teregeyo, adding that the Northern Islands would be included in the plan.
She pointed out, though, that Uracas, Maug, and Asuncion would be excluded since they are protected by the CNMI Constitution.
“SSFM has a subconsultant in Hawaii…they have a lot of direct work on land use plans in districts within Hawaii, so we are happy to see that,” said Terergeyo, indicating that this information was included in the contract.
“We are excited to move forward with it. The plan hasn’t been updated for the last 20 years and so the land use plan is long overdue for the CNMI,” she said.
Public Law 15-02, the law that also abolished the Marianas Public Lands Authority and created DPL in its stead, also required DPL to come up with a land use plan a year after its passage. The law was enacted during former governor Benigno R. Fitial’s term.
Back in 2012, an organization known as the “Friends of Marpi” challenged the administration’s plan to install power poles in Marpi. The project was ultimately cancelled after Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth Govendo put a hold on development in the northern part of Saipan, where Marpi is, until a land use plan is developed.
In 2015, the CNMI Legislature appropriated $700,000 for the land use plan. The project did not go through after DPL released a request for proposal, but was reportedly not comfortable with offers.