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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 8) – Guam’s local government has been returning excess military land to its original owners for years, but the ancestral land cannot be used because it never was zoned while it was under military control.

"They can't do anything with their property in the absence of zoning," Speaker Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, said yesterday.

Lawmakers have taken a piecemeal approach to the problem, passing laws that zoned specific parcels of ancestral land, but they debated a bill yesterday by Forbes that's intended to create a more efficient and fair process to zone the remaining land.

"There are thousands of acres ... for which no zoning exists," Forbes said, and because the parcels are spread out in residential, agriculture and commercial areas, it is not possible to designate a zone that covers them all fairly.

Forbes said it would be imprudent for lawmakers to zone the properties, and the existing land use process, which deals with lots case-by-case, is not fair to ancestral landowners.

Forbes' bill creates a commission of existing government officials, responsible for creating a comprehensive zoning plan for ancestral land. The plan would require approval from the governor and lawmakers.

Also yesterday, lawmakers debated a bill by Frank Aguon Jr., D-Yona that names Route 8 "Purple Heart Memorial Highway." Aguon is the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Robert Underwood in the upcoming election.

Naming a road is not a trivial issue, they argued, noting the island's strong connection to the military. About one-tenth of the island's population has served in the military, said Sen. Eddie Calvo, R-Maite.

Major roads already have been renamed by lawmakers -- "Army Drive" and "Vietnam Veterans Highway" -- and the governor used an executive order to rename Marine Drive "Marine Corps Drive."

"I submit that this is an important thing," said Forbes, who noted that the Purple Heart is only given to those wounded while serving our country in the military. "Do you not appreciate the fact that these people shed their blood?" he asked.

Aguon said the bill recognizes those who served to ensure freedom and liberty.

"This is a great tribute to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Sen. Mike Cruz, R-Piti, a battlefield surgeon and running mate of Gov. Felix Camacho in this fall's gubernatorial election.

June 8, 2006

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