Rep. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan) wants to require lawmakers to get more public input before changes to zoning areas are made to accommodate new investors are made in the Commonwealth.
Sablan has authored House Bill 19-190 to amend the Zoning Law of 2013 to require not one but three public hearings for any proposed change of district boundary, uses, or requirements, among other purposes.
“We continue to realize the rise in investments and developments on our islands which is certainly healthy for economic growth,” Sablan said in a statement. “In addition to the obvious increase in developments, we are noticing many requests for properties both public and private to be re-zoned and we anticipate these request to be more common.”
“While I do acknowledge the need for re-zoning of areas to assist developments,” Sablan went on to say, “we must be cognizant of the fact that many of these zoning changes trigger many questions and concerns from our people that must be addressed properly. We need to find balance between our fiscal, social, economic, and environmental goals.”
Sablan’s bill amends the zoning law to require public hearings to “occur in the village or site where the proposed change and/or project is to take place unless access to the site is limited due to distance or other reasonable factors which shall be set forth in writing.”
To the CNMI Zoning Board’s task to prescribe rules of procedure to govern publishing of public notices and the conduct of public hearings, Sablan adds that the “said rules shall comply with the Open Government Act.”
His bill further adds that, “the Zoning Board shall provide all necessary plans for the public to view during each public hearing.”
“…Most residents whose homes surround the site of a proposed major or even a minor site plan are usually uninformed and unaware of site plans that may significantly affect them,” Sablan’s bill states. “These residents are exposed to different potential hazards via construction, pollution…that will disrupt their health and their everyday living.”
It adds that the concerns of residents must be properly addressed in order to provide the peaceful environment that they deserve.