The Anaks Ocean View Hill Saipan Homeowners’ Association Limited has asked the Superior Court to review the Commonwealth Zoning Board’s decision to grant an application for a conditional use license for Atkins Kroll’s Lexus dealership and repair shop and bodywork of 27 bays in Puerto Rico.
The community of owners also wants the court to issue an order quashing Zoning Board Order 2022-1-03 and directing the board to revoke Conditional Use Permit 2020-10382.
The group also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting construction on lot EA 496-R1 under conditional use permit 2020-10382 until a full review is completed.
According to the 25-page petition for review, Anaks Ocean View is the tenant of “a safe, quiet, and beautifully landscaped property in Puerto Rico Village that is home to a diverse community of approximately 170 Saipan residents.”
On April 21, 2022, the council released its Zoning Board Order 2022-1-03 granting a conditional use application for an automobile dealership on lot EA 896-R1 immediately adjacent to Anaks Ocean View.
The Zoning Board permitted “industrial” use on lot EA 896-R, an automobile dealership, including “a very large 27 bay repair and body shop with unknown, but inevitably significant impacts”.
The Zoning Board’s decision authorizing the project is “arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with law under the Commonwealth Administrative Procedure Act, 1 CMC § 9112(f)(2)(i), because the Board has failed or erroneously applied the legal criteria of the Saipan Zoning Law or SZL of 2013, as amended, 10 CMC § 3511 to the proposed project,” the petition reads.
He added that the Zoning Board’s inability to properly apply the SZL and to carefully consider whether to site an industrial use next to a well-established residential community may have resulted from other legal failures by the Zoning Board, namely the failure to implement significant provisions of the Council’s enabling statute, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Zoning Code, 2 CMC §§ 7201-7255.
According to the petition, these failures include, but are not limited to, failure to hire a professional planner with the required qualifications as council staff, 2 CMC § 7222(a), and failure to assess the proposal in the context of a zoning plan that is economically neutral and protects Anaks from potential nuisances.
The zoning board approved the permit without following the procedure required by law, according to the petition.
“Anaks has repeatedly requested more time to submit information to the Board and a disputed case hearing. However, the Commission provided Anaks with neither effective notice of the proceedings nor an adequate opportunity to be heard. To finish, [the] The Zoning Board’s decision to approve the conditional use permit without rigorously assessing the impact on the general neighborhood and residents of Anaks Ocean View specifically violates NMI Const. Art I, § 9, the right to a clean and healthy environment,” the petition reads.
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Kate B. Fuller and Colin Thompson who filed the lawsuit on May 13, 2022.
Members of the Commonwealth Zoning Board – Perry Inos Jr., Francisco C. Aguon, Cecilia Taitano, Kevin C. Guerrero, Edna Nisola and Shayne Villanueva, in their official capacities – have been named as respondents in the petition.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, the five judges of the Superior Court of the CNMI recused themselves from hearing the case.
Associate Judge Wesley Bogdan said he was “a resident and owner of property involved in this litigation.”
Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho said there was a conflict with him handling the case.
Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja, Associate Judges Kenneth L. Govendo and Teresa Kim-Tenorio said their impartiality could be questioned, which is why they disqualified themselves to hear the trial.