Pierluisi on Rincón dispute ‘A governor shouldn't have an opinion on a matter that is still pending’

Urges regulatory agencies concerned to ‘act quickly’

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia denied Tuesday that he had any direct or indirect influence on the handling of permits that the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) granted for a pool reconstruction project at the Sol y Playa condominium in Rincón.

Demonstrators at the beachfront site say the project breaches the maritime terrestrial zone and disrupts a known nesting site for endangered sea turtles.

“That permit was granted long before I was governor. Now it is being questioned. What is important is that both the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the Planning Board take up this matter with a sense of urgency,” Pierluisi said in response to questions from the press after he spoke at a commemoration of the birth of Dr. José Celso Barbosa, who is regarded as the father of the statehood movement in Puerto Rico, at María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan.

The governor’s statement comes amid a dispute that has spurred dozens of residents, activists and legislators to protest against the construction work. Opponents of the project have set up an indefinite protest camp close to the Almendros Beach shore.

“A governor should not have an opinion on a matter that is still pending; that would be a general opinion, [and] that’s not a question to ask, to be fair with you,” Pierluisi said. “If what you are asking me to do is to determine whether the permit proceeds or not, it would be irresponsible on my part because it is a matter that involves expertise, it is being adjudicated by both the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the Planning Board, and I am the first one to respect the regulatory agencies and the only thing I ask of them is that they act quickly,”

The governor also rejected the notion of any intervention whatsoever on his part because a relative, Walter Pierluisi Isern, owns a unit in the housing complex.

“First of all, we are talking about a third or fourth cousin of mine,” he said. “As I said, that permit was issued long before I was governor.”

When asked why DNER Secretary Rafael Machargo Maldonado filed and then two hours later amended a cease and desist order that demanded the housing complex stop the construction work as it was taking place in both a maritime terrestrial zone and a sea turtle nesting ground, Pierluisi said that what Machargo did was “to clarify the scope of an order or decision that was made.”

“In any case, it is the secretary who should be asked the questions regarding his own decisions, not this person,” he said. “At La Fortaleza, we do not intervene with the decisions that involve permits and pending adjudications at the agencies.”

Finally, the governor recommended that anyone who believes that police have been excessive in their use of force at the demonstrations should file a complaint.

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