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Last updateSat, 21 Oct 2017 10am

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    Sunday, October 22, 2017-1:13:37A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Zoning Board approves Tanapag hotel project

BASED on recommendations presented by Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro, the Zoning Board on Wednesday evening approved the conditional use permit application of American Sinopan which plans to build a new hotel, Saipan Garden Resort, on a 10-hectare piece of private property across from Tanapag Middle School.

American Sinopan LLC chief executive director Ken T. Lin said the project will cost $164 million of which half will be self-funded, 30 percent will be taken from a construction loan, and 20 percent will be raised through a private investment fund.

Lin told the Zoning Board headed by Chairman Diego Blanco during a public hearing at the multi-purpose center on Wednesday night that they will enlist hotel-management groups such as the Hilton, Marriott and Starwood as partners. Discussions are now in progress, Lin added.

American Sinopan, a subsidiary of First Sinopan International Ltd. in Hong Kong, is also renovating and developing a 12-executive-room hotel called Heaven II at Wireless Ridge on Capital Hill.

Matt Gregory, legal counsel of American Sinopan, said the company has long-standing development experience in greater China and believes in the potential growth of the Pacific region.

He said they also have strong management relationships with five-star hotels such as the Hilton and Marriott.

Their goal, he said, is to expand their first business venture in the international tourism market, establish a new stronghold in the Pacific region and be listed on the stock market through their overseas projects.

Their proposed cluster hotel in Tanapag will have 1,200 rooms.

After a three-hour discussion and presentation, Chairman Diego Blanco and Zoning Board members Bruce Bateman, Mariano Taitano, Joe Ayuyu Jr. and Joel Camacho voted to approve the investor’s conditional use permit application.

Zoning Administrator Therese Ogumoro said the cluster-hotel project will consist of 10 hotel buildings each with six floors, two service buildings, two staff villages, two restaurant buildings, two hotel dining buildings, a club house, a cafeteria and an administration building.

She said the parking area required for the project must have 2,020 spaces. The investor submitted a parking variance of 704 although based on the investor’s calculation, it needs only 578 parking spaces for their guests and employees of whom 30 percent will be locals or U.S. workers, she added.

Among those who expressed their full support for the project were Reps. Alice Igitol and Leepan Guerrero.

“I have never doubted the ability of this board to consider what will benefit the CNMI and the residents near the development site,” Igitol said, adding that the hotel project is expected to employ residents in the area.      

She also submitted a petition expressing support for the Saipan Garden Resort signed by 190 residents of Tanapag and adjoining areas.

Guerrero, for his part, said the private property, which the company subleased for 54 years, will remain undeveloped if not used for a development project.

“I believe the investor has the financial capability, and I hope they will complete the project,” he added.

But residents Sheila Babauta and Tricia Norita said the “massive development project” will have a great impact on the area’s natural resources.

Norita said development is “happening too fast” on Saipan and has changed the lives of residents dramatically. “Tourists come here to explore our beautiful island not a hotel resort.”

Babauta said the development will bring in more people to Saipan and result in “more issues.”

Manny T. Castro said development is an important factor in improving the quality of the people’s lives. However, he added, investors should fulfill their promises.

MVA Managing Director Chris Concepcion, in an interview after the hearing, said the concept of integrating different hotel properties in one location is a trend happening around the world.

“We fully support this project. The tourism industry is seeing a significant surge in arrivals, but our growth is limited by the lack of an adequate hotel room inventory. We feel this project will fill that need at a critical time in our history. This project will have a minimal impact on the environment given their aim to be the first ever LEED-certified building in the CNMI,” he said, referring to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, “one of the most popular green-building-certification programs used worldwide.”

Concepcion said he met with the senior regional director for the Hilton based in Tokyo who, he added, has expressed support for American Sinopan’s project.

“As a destination, we need global brands like the Hilton to open properties in the CNMI because that elevates our profile as a premium destination. The fact that the Hilton group has hinted at the possibility of partnering with American Sinopan to open a property in the CNMI is good news. We hope to see this project move forward.”