Zoning allows SCA more time to give added info

SCA holds talks with DPL to acquire additional lands to meet requirements

Rep. Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan), second from right, and Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), second from left, join board members and supporters of Saipan Cares for Animals CNMI in a group photo at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe Wednesday night. (Contributed Photo)

The Commonwealth Zoning Board wants more information from Saipan Cares for Animals CNMI in its application to use an existing one-story building in As Gonno for its veterinary clinic and also to provide 29 dog kennels on the property.

After a brief executive session in Wednesday night’s public hearing at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe, Zoning board chair Tatiana Babauta announced that they will table SCA’s conditional use permit application because they need more information from SCA.

SCA is a nonprofit rescue clinic that provides low cost services for dogs and cats.

Babauta said they will give SCA until Aug. 1, 2021, to provide the board with more information.

As to what additional information they are seeking, Babauta said that SCA should contact Zoning administrator Geralyn Dela Cruz for the specifics. “She will provide you all the information and additional requirements,” said Babauta, drawing applause from board members and supporters of SCA.

The board held the executive session after hearing the testimonies of some board members and supporters of SCA.

Lucy Sablan, a board secretary for SCA, said in an interview shortly before Babauta announced their decision that she attended the hearing to provide information regarding their Zoning permit. Sablan said she provided information that they’re acquiring additional public lands and are hoping that Zoning will give them some time to get the public lands.

“The reason we’re out here is because we’re in violation of the Zoning law regarding the size of the location. And they are in an executive session to decide whether they are going to give us more time with the Zoning law,” Sablan said.

She said they need the permit because they are renewing their business license.

SCA has five voting board members and two non-voting members.

“One of our long-term goals is to have a full-time veterinarian on Saipan to provide spay and neuter clinics on Saipan, Rota, and Tinian,” Sablan said, adding that they need a very low-cost spay neuter clinic services to control the CNMI’s animal population humanely.

SCA was founded by Beth Pliscou in 2016.

Among those who attended the hearing were Reps. Sheila Babauta and Leila Staffler (both D-Saipan).

In an interview while the Zoning directors were holding the executive session, Babauta said the Zoning board will decide whether to approve or deny SCA’s conditional use permit for their current location in As Gonno.

“Because the size of their current location does not meet the requirements of the current Zoning law. It is currently zoned as rural,” said Babauta, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources. SCA is trying to secure a conditional use permit from Zoning so it could also use the site as a veterinary clinic hospital.

Right now, SCA’s current property is a little over 1,000 square meters. Babauta said SCA has already started talks with the Department of Public Lands for a public property right across SCA’s current location. She said if SCA acquires this property, it will meet the requirements for the minimum size, which is a little over 4,000 square meters.

“Even though their current property does not meet the size requirement, they are already taking steps to try and meet that requirement by working with DPL on acquiring public land that is right next to their current property. There is a solution,” the lawmaker said.

Babauta said she and Staffler attended the hearing because they fully support SCA as they are also dog owners. “I use their valuable services all the time. So we are very grateful for their existence and services to the community,” she added.

Sisters Grace and Aria Keilbach, founders of the Boonie Babies Foster, also attended the hearing to support SCA.

Boonie Babies Foster, which has over 300,000 followers online, provides shelter, food, comfort, and love for boonie dogs before they are adopted.

“Our videos have over millions of views. Our most recent has 6 million likes. All the videos are about the dogs and about the situation on Saipan,” Grace Keilbach said.

The Keilbach sisters, who are full-time college students, started just going around the island, feeding the stray dogs. The two eventually realized that they want to do more and that they could do more.

“And so we started taking in the worst-case scenario, the emergency cases, when we found the dogs that we knew would not survive the night,” Grace said.

Within the past year, they have already rescued over 30 dogs that have diseases and injuries, Grace Keilbach said.

“We are currently working on getting the dogs adopted off island and to the states,” she said.

Grace Keilbach said she and her sister were at the hearing to support SCA as they work closely with them. “We’re not officially partners, but we work with them and they work with us. Without them, without their veterinary care, spaying and neutering, none of our dogs would make it,” Grace Keilbach said.

She said they work with SCA in fostering some of their extremely sick puppies as well.

Aria Keilbach said she started Boonie Babies Foster two years ago. Their family arrived on Saipan from Colorado four years ago.

Aria Keilbach said she started fostering from Saipan Cares and they’re the ones that gave them the inspiration to start doing this independently.

“All of our dogs get medical care from Saipan Cares but we do our own rescues and rehabilitation and adoptions. But none of which would be possible without Saipan Cares,” Aria Keilbach said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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