Taitague: $1.9 billion in new economic development stalled

Written by on February 8, 2021

Senator Telo Taitague said some $1.9 billion in possible new economic development for Guam has been stalled due to the delay in the review and decision-making process of land use applications.

Taitague said information received during the January 21, 2021 oversight hearing for the Guam Land Use Commission showed that at least 47 land use applications with a combined investment worth $1.9 billion have yet to move forward.

The senator said these projects include temporary worker housing, telecommunications facilities, multifamily apartment buildings, single-family residential buildings, warehouses, the conversion of an inactive hotel to multifamily apartment units, and maintenance and storage buildings.

“Together, these projects represent a real and significant shot in the arm for our local economy particularly at a time when there are thousands of Guamanians displaced from work or have less hours to earn an income as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Taitague said in a news release.

She added: “The potential investments worth $1.9 billion do not include the multiplier effect these projects, if approved, may yield across different industries through the creation of jobs beyond construction – and support for existing businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, telecommunications, healthcare facilities, and so much more.”

Taitague’s Bill 38 requiring the Application Review Committee (ARC) to provide position statements on land use applications within 45 working days from the filing of a land use application, received public feedback during a legislative hearing held Thursday.

Bill 38-36 builds upon earlier efforts to facilitate movement on land use applications that are pending action by the Guam Land Use Commission (GLUC).

During the public hearing, Taitague reminded her colleagues that the director of Land Management recommended in 2019 for a 60-day review period and more recently, at an oversight hearing, Taitague said DLM director Joseph Borja stated that the current law which provides a 30-day review period “may not have teeth.”

In response, Bill 38-36 proposes to replace the 30-day period with a 45-working day period including two 14-working day extensions for a maximum period of 73 working days or a little more than 3 months.

“I contend that ARC agencies routinely take months to prepare position statements, because they do not understand the intent and required content of a position statement. Consequently, applicants receive variations ranging from a few paragraphs to several pages. The majority of position statements simply repeat narrative from the GLUC application itself, such as the project description and similar physical characteristics, and then follow with a recital of laws and regulations which apply (or may not) to the proposed project. This is meaningless information to an applicant and a waste of time because it’s all available on the agency’s website or in literature readily accessible to anyone,” wrote Mr. Dan Swavely in written testimony submitted for the public hearing. “I assert, therefore, that when ARC agencies rethink their position statements… one week will be sufficient time to submit.”

The time period proposed in Bill 38-36 provides ARC member-agencies more than 30 calendar days but establishes a new time limit which is not optional and where a violation would result in an ARC member-agency director paying a $250 administrative fine as a personal expense.

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