Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ypao Condos Approved

Commission approves condos:
32-story towers OK'd to be built next to Ypao Beach
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
July 25, 2008

The undeveloped, beachfront land next to Ypao Beach Park is one step closer to being transformed into a 646-unit condominium complex that includes two high-rise buildings.

The Guam Land Use Commission voted 4-2 in favor of the project's application to build 159 more condo units than the 487 the project would have been limited to because of land constraints.

The application has been on and off the commission's agenda since it was filed in May and has met opposition from some of the area's longtime residents.

The commission's action allows the developer, Access Ypao Inc., to build 32 percent more condo units than what Guam's current land-use rules allow.

The project is called Ypao Luxury Condominiums.

The approval of Access Ypao's project, however, is subject to a long list of conditions.

The conditions include the developer's financial contributions of about $300,000 for the renovation and upkeep of the Ypao Beach restrooms and a process to monitor compliance with the conditions attached to the GLUC approval.

The two commissioners who voted against the 646-unit project were Conchita Bathan and Frank G. Blaz.

Commission Chairman Jay Lather, commissioners Art Salomes, Lawrence Rivera and Peter Gill supported the developer's application.

'Too much'
Bathan said the project's request to build 32 percent more units than what would normally be allowed "is too much." Blaz failed to get the majority of his fellow commissioners to keep the project's number of units from going beyond the normal threshold.

"I didn't hear anything persuasive that we have to change the standard," Blaz said.

But the commission's chairman said the commissioners shouldn't just focus on the project's proposed number of units. Lather said the units will have smaller floor space, with one or two bedrooms each instead of larger units with more rooms.

"We shouldn't look at number of units. What we should look at is impact," Lather said.

If the project had proposed three-bedroom units and then asked to be allowed 159 more units above its limit, Lather said his response would have been to tell the developer, "You're out of your mind."

Lather said it's a flaw in Guam's land-use rules to use number of units instead of floor space in computing whether a project meets or exceeds density standards.

In this case, if the developer wanted to build within its 487-unit cap, but then makes the units larger and design massive buildings that obstruct views of the bay, the commission wouldn't have a say, Lather said.

"There's little that we can hold the developer's feet to the fire for," Lather said.

Bull-cart trail
The commission's approval also was conditional upon a resolution of the previously raised bull-cart trail issue.

An ancient bull-cart trail bisects the two lots that will be the project's site.

The Chamorro Land Trust Commission has jurisdiction over the trail, and has provided the GLUC with a letter indicating it would agree to the relocation of the trail.

Attorney Jay Arriola, who opposes the project, said the developer doesn't own all of the property it seeks to develop because it doesn't have title to the bull-cart trail.

And Democratic Sen. Ben Pangelinan, in a letter to the Chamorro Land Trust yesterday, said he doesn't see how the developer's proposal benefits the local people, who are beneficiaries of the Land Trust.

Any further action by the Land Trust on the bull-cart trail issue should allow beneficiaries of the trust to state their position, Pangelinan said.

Simon Sanchez, the chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities but speaking as a private citizen, said the $240 million project would still allow the developer a $36 million profit even if it was limited to a 487-unit project.

"Let's not forget the sins of the past by allowing all the growth that money can buy," Sanchez said.

Area resident Jackie Arriola Marati said part of her concern is the traffic congestion a project of such scope would create.

The island also doesn't have the capability to fight high-rise fires, Marati said.

Sanchez said the traffic issues raised by some of Guam's residents were ignored by the Land Use Commission, even though the project includes 1,000 parking stalls.

"We think the GLUC is setting a dangerous precedence" by allowing developers to build beyond limits set by Guam law, Sanchez said.

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