In an effort to solve systemic delays in the land use application process, Speaker Therese Terlaje, Chairperson of the Committee on Land, held a critical oversight with the Department of Land Management, the Guam Land Use Commission and Application Review Committee (ARC) members.
The projects range from approval for conditional use, variances, zoning, and subdivisions among others. There are generally five steps in the GLUC process beginning with the Preliminary Application Interview (PAI), then the Application Review Committee position statements, the Municipal Public Hearing, the Municipal Planning Council public hearing if necessary, followed by the GLUC public meeting and action (approval or disapproval).
Pursuant to Public Law 33-209, ARC members are required to submit position statements that provide information regarding surrounding infrastructure and the potential impacts of the project within thirty (30) days of receipt of the application.
However, as discussed during the hearing, certain agencies, despite diligent efforts, have not been able to meet that deadline due to other agency priorities, staffing shortages or the need for complex and technical reviews for certain projects. When asked if the agency review process through the ARC should be bypassed to expedite the review by Senator Chris Duenas, a majority of the agency members opposed it.
Additionally, COVID-19 restrictions have prohibited the public hearing process for most of 2020, however, Chief Planner Celine Cruz advised that protocols are being put in place to address sanitation and safety in order to resume public hearings by next month for eight applications that are at this step of the process.
Dr. Anita Enriquez, Chair for the Guam Land Use Commission, advised that GLUC meetings have resumed twice monthly since November. She reported that action was taken on all items on the GLUC agenda, the fifth and final step of the process, and was mindful of delays occurring at earlier phases of the five-step process.
“There appears to be some progress, but I want to find more ways to assist the Commission and all agencies tied into this process, to make it a more timely and precise process, that nurtures development and investment while not compromising the safety of the community and our resources,” stated the Speaker.
Land Management Director Joe Borja recognized that most agencies have timely submissions of their position statements, however, he noted that the Bureau of Statistics and Plans, Guam EPA and Department of Agriculture have submitted statements after 60 days. Responses on delays from stakeholder agencies ranged from funding issues, onerous workflow, manual processes, and shortage of staffing in specific planning departments.
With particular concerns raised about housing for temporary workers for construction projects in the near future, Chief Planner Cruz advised that there are three temporary workforce housing conditional use applications in the first stage of the process requiring review by DLM, one that is pending ARC action, and two that are pending a municipal public hearing. There were none that were ready to be placed on the GLUC agenda for action. Director Borja added that there were 22,000 previously approved temporary workers housing units but less than 3000 have been built.
Speaker Terlaje acknowledged that the agencies are adapting to public health mandates and stated, “We currently have between 40 to 50 applications of different types pending from last year and moving through the process and we know these projects represent millions of dollars in investment. I urge the executive branch agencies and the Commission to continue to work with developers and the Legislature to promptly address the delays and impediments.”
The oversight hearing can be viewed on Youtube at the Guam Legislature Media Channel.
(Speaker Therese Terlaje News Release)