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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ceiba mayor objects to proposed changes to Roosevelt Roads redevelopment law

By John McPhaul

Ceiba Mayor Samuel Rivera Báez said Tuesday that he does not support the amendments to Law 508-2004, the Roosevelt Roads Local Community Redevelopment Authority Law, proposed by Carolina District Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau, which seek a new legal framework for redeveloping the former U.S. Navy base.

“The bill is bad for Ceiba,” the mayor said in a written statement. “I find it disrespectful to the Ceibeño people and to me as mayor. It is a measure that only seeks the impoverishment of the municipality, threatens the conservation of our natural resources and threatens the hopes that my citizens have of a great development with multiple opportunities.”

“As the bill is written, I don’t support it,” he added. “Roosevelt Roads, for the most part, is Ceibeño land; they cannot continue making decisions leaving us out. They cannot delegate the powers that the municipality has to a corporation, they cannot create a new separate municipality within a municipality. The power of territorial planning, ordinances, regulating operations of itinerant businesses, naming streets and more is the responsibility of the municipality.”

The measure seeks to create a new legal framework for the redevelopment of the old Roosevelt Roads base that the mayor says leaves out the interests of the Ceibeños and the participation of the municipality.

Rivera Báez said the measure proposes alarming changes that grant extensive rights and powers to the Roosevelt Roads Redevelopment Authority to the detriment of municipal and government statutes. One of the controversial points and one of greatest concern for the mayor is the exclusion from the regulation of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) in its role of protecting resources. If the amendments to the law are approved, the mayor said, the redevelopment authority, and not the DNER, would be in charge of establishing the necessary regulations to administer territorial waters, submerged lands and the maritime-terrestrial zone in the vicinity of Roosevelt Roads.

The mayor added that the senator’s bill grants powers to the authority that only the island’s municipalities have. Among them, he said, the authority would be responsible for regulating the location and operation of itinerant businesses, naming the streets, avenues, promenades, parks, squares, buildings, facilities and all public roads, works, structures or facilities in the vicinity of Roosevelt Roads. It also establishes that it will be the authority that will implement policies, strategies and plans aimed at the organization of its territory and the conservation of its resources. The measure also provides that the authority will have the power to approve and enforce ordinances with administrative fines.

The amendments also leave the municipality out of tax collections, the mayor noted while objecting to the granting a 50 percent personal property tax exemption for development on Roosevelt Roads land. He said that constitutes an action against the services offered by the municipality to its citizens since it directly affects municipal finances.

Similarly, Rivera Báez opposes the creation of a Fund for the Improvement of Roosevelt Roads and that it be for the exclusive use of the authority for the costs of operating, maintaining and improving its facilities. He specified that, with this, the municipality is deprived of the quota that all developers must contribute to the municipality, contributions that result in health, safety and waste collection services for residents.

“I am not opposed to the development of Roosevelt Roads, I am in favor of the rehabilitation of those lands,” the mayor said. “The development of this area is a priority for the municipality and is an integral part of our economic revitalization plan to establish infrastructure projects, and to rehabilitate, inhabit and repopulate our town. The municipality is available with all its resources to form alliances, to be collaborators in the process, but [the redevelopment plan] cannot arbitrarily exclude us.”

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