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Last updateWed, 17 Oct 2018 12am

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2018-3:39:33P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Blighted property bill now law

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres on Thursday approved a local measure that will hold property owners, including the government,  accountable in securing and maintaining abandoned, vacant and blighted properties in the commonwealth.

House Local Bill 20-14, introduced by Rep. Larry Deleon Guerrero, is now Saipan Local Law 20-25. It mandates the Zoning Office to enforce the new policy.

Deleon Guerrero thanked the governor for signing the bill, saying it took three legislatures to make it  happen.

Larry Deleon Guerrero

“I introduced this in the 18th, 19th and now the 20th Legislature. It was approved by the House in the 18th Legislature but it died in the Senate. The Senate stated that it should not include Tinian and Rota because the Zoning Office was created merely for Saipan…. I reintroduced it in the 19th and it went through deliberation and discussion and debates and public hearings but there were a lot of concerns. I re-introduced it again in the 20th and finally it went through. It was again discussed during public hearings and there were still some concerns from the owners who leased their properties but their lessees left without securing the properties. This is the reason why we have a lot of abandoned properties on  island and it’s about time that we start doing something about it,” Deleon Guerrero said.

The local measure was reviewed by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations chaired by Rep. Ivan Blanco.

He said the bill was amended to include the concerns raised by the public.

“When this bill came to my committee, I and the members ensured that we have the proper language from the stakeholders to make sure the bill would move forward. And because of the support we received from the administration and the public, it was passed by the delegation and now we are happy that it finally became law,” Blanco said.

Deleon Guerrero said if funding is an issue, the new law imposes penalties for non-compliance. The Zoning Office will set the penalty amounts, he added.

The Zoning Office, which will have one year to enforce the law, can now start educating the public about its goals and importance, he added.

Deleon Guerrero said the Zoning Office can also work collaboratively with other departments such as Public Works and Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

He said DFEMS can issue a citation to an abandoned property for safety violations or DPW can also issue a citation for an abandoned building for building code violations.