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    Tuesday, December 11, 2018-7:46:34P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Zoning Board approves conditional use application of zipline operation

THE Saipan Zoning Board on Thursday approved the conditional use application of Saipan Adventure Tours during a public hearing at the multi-purpose center in Susupe.

The company headed by its president John Stewart is planning to operate a zipline amusement activity in Marpi.

Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro said the areas where the company plans to operate are zoned as rural, public resource and tourist resort.

“This use is classified as amusement, outdoor and will be located on lots 064 A02, 074 A01, 084 A01 and 085 A01 in Marpi,” she said.

The zoning staff recommended to the board the approval of the application after hearing comments from the participants at the public hearing.

The zoning staff said Saipan Adventure Tours must also comply with the requirements which include employing all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of customers, the adjacent properties and the general public; limiting the hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; maintaining the speed limit of vehicles transporting customers to and from the site to not more than 25 miles per hour; and landscaping the area to screen trash bins from public view.

Ogumoro said the company must also comply with the requirements of the other regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over its operation.

She also asked the company to submit a revised plan clarifying that it will not operate a restaurant or café involving food preparation at the operation building.

Zoning Board Chairman Diego Blanco presides over a public hearing on the conditional use application of Saipan Adventure Tour at the multi-purpose center. Also in the photo are board legal counsel Kate Fuller, board members  Joe Ayuyu Jr. Alice Igitol and Herman P. Sablan.Zoning Board Chairman Diego Blanco presides over a public hearing on the conditional use application of Saipan Adventure Tour at the multi-purpose center. Also in the photo are board legal counsel Kate Fuller, board members Joe Ayuyu Jr. Alice Igitol and Herman P. Sablan.

Based on comments from participants at the public hearing, the zoning staff said the company should halt it operation whenever there is a funeral or memorial ceremony at Banzai Cliff or the veterans cemetery.

The company must also ensure that nature and hiking trails and pathways situated in the area of operation are preserved, Ogumoro said.

Because it will use a generator to power its operation, the company must ensure that the noise emanating from it will not exceed the reasonable level of 65 to 70 decibels.

During the public hearing, the company’s public relations officer Benigno Sablan presented short video clips showing an aerial view of the zipline operation.

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Perry Tenorio, for his part, expressed full support for the zipline while requesting the operator to reconsider relocating its zipline two that will operate between Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff.

Tenorio also suggested that an independent inspector should check the safety and reliability of the zipline cable.

He further recommended that a regulatory agency should monitor regularly the maintenance component of the zipline to ensure the safety of its operation.

Richard Cole, designer and project consultant who has been involved in zipline adventure tourism for over 25 years, said they are using the latest equipment which is even better than what the industries requires.

“There’s going to be the highest level of safety,” he said, adding that they will regularly train their staff members with respect to safety.

Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio testifies in support of the zipline project. Saipan Adventure Tour project consultant and designer Richard Cole, standing right, listens.   Photos by Junhan B. TodinoMarianas Visitors Authority managing director Perry Tenorio testifies in support of the zipline project. Saipan Adventure Tour project consultant and designer Richard Cole, standing right, listens. Photos by Junhan B. Todino

In his many years of experience, Cole said he had not encountered any major injuries except one incident when a client broke a finger but not on the ride itself.

Ogumoro, in her report to the board, said the company is planning to establish three ziplines — from Suicide Cliff to Banzai Cliff; from north of Wing Beach; and from Mariana Resort Hill in Kan Pacific.

In the tower area, she said the applicant plans to develop 25 parking spaces and walkways.

At each zipline station, the company will set up 15 parking spaces, a waiting area and develop a walkway.

Saipan Adventure Tour legal counsel Robert Torres noted that getting the permit from the zoning office is only one step in the process.

“We still have to go to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. We must get a permit from the Division of Fish and Wildlife to be able to do our activity to make sure that what we do does not impact the fauna and flora.”

Torres said they also need permits from the Historic Preservation Office and other regulatory agencies.

More than 200 community members attended the public hearing on Thursday night, and except for Guam-based National Park Service superintendent Jim Richardson, who expressed his opposition, all those who testified were supportive of the zipline business.