Legislation introduced to address unsafe buildings and structures

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Derelict buildings (PNC file photo)

Senator James Moylan was joined by Senators Tony Ada, Chris Duenas, and Frank Blas Jr., in introducing legislation to modernize Guam’s statute with addressing the island’s unsafe buildings and structures.

The genesis of the legislation emerged from a tour the Senators made a few weeks ago, where at the request of certain government entities, they visited the old parking garage across the Tumon Church.

Members of the community have expressed the many public safety concerns that have resonated from the old parking garage over the years. The derelict structure has been used as an illegal dumping ground for trash and sits in the heart of Guam’s tourism district. The structure also houses several island residents, which creates a public health hazard for those individuals and their families.

Since the tour, Senator Moylan has been in communication with the representatives of the owners (who are based in Taiwan), along with the Department of Public Works (DPW), and Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio, who chairs the Office of Homeless Assistance and Poverty Prevention (OHAPP). There has been some progress, inclusive of a clean-up of the trash, erection of fencing, and a pathway in place for security and eventual demolition of the structure.

What was discovered in the process is that Guam’s statutes associated with addressing unsafe structures required some modernizing. The legislation would establish timelines to assist DPW’s inspectors when it comes to the process of advising building owners to address the concerns of unsafe buildings. The measure also places a greater level of responsibility on the owners of these structures by increasing the penalties, in the event they fail to abide by DPW’s policies.

“Ultimately, Guam’s laws associated with unsafe buildings need to be taken more seriously. Owners of such structures must realize that derelict structures are not just community eyesores, but they create public safety and health hazards. They open hubs for potential criminal activity. They impact property values for neighboring homes and buildings. There are economic factors, along with beautification ones. We need to respect communities, and this is one step in that process,” stated Senator Moylan. “There has been discussion with DPW on this legislation, and this opens up the conversation to establish a statute which is reasonable, enforceable, and will achieve the objectives outlined. This bill is not just about the old parking garage, but about every derelict building on the island, which needs to be either vacated, renovated, or demolished,” added Senator Moylan.

Guam’s law does allow the government to initiate the cost of clean-ups, repairs, or even the demolition of a private structure that is deemed unsafe and would allow for a lien to be placed on the property. The legislation would add a timeline for the building owner to pay back the government.

“We appreciate the assistance of the media with the initial tour, as it opened up the conversation on this issue to a greater level. Plus because of their efforts, there are families living in that structure that have the opportunity of attaining some government support soon. Mr. Brett Wiese of RIM Architects, whose company represents the off-island owners, has also been very cooperative in this process, and has reiterated and showcased that the owners are determined to clean up and eventually demolish the structure,” added Senator Moylan.

(Senator James Moylan Release)

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