In the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands, the long-running effort by Bridge Investment Group to win approval for its proposed Tinian Ocean View Resort And Casino has taken another turn with the privately-held real estate developer reportedly launching an online petition in an effort to gain more local support.
According to a report from the local Marianas Variety newspaper, the appeal posted at Change.org is seeking community backing for the planned $120 million development after the United States territory’s Coastal Resources Management agency refused to issue a permit for the scheme’s proposed harbor site near the island’s largest town of San Jose.
Salt Lake City-based Bridge Investment Group reportedly declared that it has spent two years planning and developing the casino project but has now “encountered a regulatory barrier” relating to the definition by certain local regulatory agencies of “port-related activities” and how these meet with the services planned for its Tinian Ocean View Resort And Casino.
The developer reportedly explained that it has spent more than $13 million since 2014 relocating and constructing buildings on a portion of harbor-side land being leased from the Commonwealth Ports Authority and had already complied with permit requirements set out by Coastal Resources Management as well as the Public Works Department, the Historical Preservation Office and the Bureau Of Environmental And Coastal Quality.
In its online petition, which has already accumulated 190 signatures of support, Bridge Investment Group reportedly stated that the project moreover meets with the provisions of the Department Of Public Land Conveyance as well as coastal resources management regulations and “will enhance and protect the Commonwealth’s inherent natural beauty and natural resources and will assist Tinian in meeting the long-term economic and social expectations of the Commonwealth”.
In denying its consent, Coastal Resources Management allegedly explained that the Tinian Ocean View Resort And Casino does not meet its technical definition of a facility offering “port-related activities” although the developer reportedly disagreed due to the fact that the development is to feature a hotel for passengers arriving via ferry.
“The law is not ambiguous, the Tinian Ocean View Resort And Casino is a “project” and that the ferry is undeniably a port-related activity,” reads the online petition. “The project is being constructed in and around “land and water areas of particular concern surrounding the commercial ports of the Northern Mariana Islands, which consists of projects, industrial uses and all related activities” as defined in Coastal Resources Management regulations.”
In its petition, the developer further argued that the project should be in the “highest” use category because it involves “a water-dependent port” and would provide roll-on-roll-off vehicle services for Tinian while addressing the lack of consistent flights to the small island.
Bridge Investment Group reportedly revealed that its monthly payroll on Tinian had already reached $160,442 due to its hiring of some 80 local employees and the Coastal Resources Management decision could put these jobs in jeopardy. The firm additionally divulged that it is spending $500,000 a year for a conditional license and around $190,000 every month on construction and operational expenses and any damaging outcome could “negatively impact [the] municipal employees and programs” that depend on these funds.