Attorney claims community swimming pool has not met conditions to proceed

Attorney Mark Ude is calling on Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale to look into the Land Use Permit for the Pala Lagoon Swimming Center. In his letter on behalf of his client Lawrence French sent to the AG last week, Ude stated he received findings and the decision of the Zoning Board Chairman of 17 March 2016 approximately four days later. “For some reason, the Pala Lagoon Swimming Center, Inc. believes that it is no longer obligated to either obtain a zoning variance or rezone the area in question.

“The Office of the Attorney General has not done anything to dissuade them of that opinion. This is at odds with the Land Use Permit 14-3231-LVB as set forth in the letter dated 17 December 2014.” Use pointed out to the AG, “If you review said letter, Condition 27 states: The permittee agrees that this permit does not allow him/her to begin construction activity until all above conditions have been met.”

The attorney says the Pala Lagoon Swimming Center, Inc., has not shown that it has met all 26 conditions set forth in the Land Use Permit. Instead, Ude said, his client noticed that Fletcher Construction had already started work on the Community Swimming Pool Project.

Of even greater concern, according to Ude, is that the work began prior to the Zoning Board having even released the above-mentioned decision. “Both the applicant and Fletcher Construction are of the mind that an earlier building permit obtained from the now-vacated 2015 approval by the Zoning Board gives them the right to proceed; concrete was being poured on April 8, 2016. If there was a new building permit issued, my client would like to know when and who authorized the permit from DOC and DPW.”

According to Ude, his client informed him that on April 1 2016, the AG appeared before the Zoning Board to reinforce their decision to reject the application. However, he was not sure what details and other topics were discussed because he was summarily voted out of the meeting even though the AG said that he had no problem with Mr. French being there. “I have attempted to meet with you to discuss this issue, and neither of my calls to your office last Monday were returned. I contacted your Office again on Wednesday, and while the receptionist now recognizes the purpose of my call, I am still without a reply as to when, or even whether, I can meet with you on this subject,” Ude wrote.

Ude points out to Talauega, without a Zoning Variance there can be no legal use of a land-use permit based upon a voided application, “and thus any development of this land is illegal.”

Ude writes that the Office of the Attorney General is ignoring written inquires and refusing to respond to telephone calls. “It is my belief that the obligation of the Office of the Attorney General is to uphold and enforce the laws of the Territory of American Samoa. In light of the fact that a number of statutes are being outright ignored, it appears that the American Samoa Government is not being consistent in its enforcement of various regulations and statutory restrictions,” and he cited what he characterized as “intensive ASG interference” with the Haleck family's development of their land in Ottoville. “I am frankly surprised that the improper construction upon land owned by the American Samoa Government is of no visible concern.”

He said upon review of the circumstances, it appears that this inaction and less than open, honest and transparent communication has had a negative impact upon the reputation of Lawrence French.

“While he was subjected to unilateral recusal from participating in the Rotary Club’s application for a zoning variance in order to build the Community Swimming Pool, he was never removed from the Zoning Board. However, he has been ignored and intentionally denied access to discussions regarding the present situation even though no new application has been received. From the e-mails received it could easily be inferred that ASG is attempting to stonewall any release of the details and information regarding the Swimming Pool Project so construction can continue.”

Ude further says that if in fact the AG has taken a broader interpretation of the zoning law than what was stated in the decision letter then this deliberate stonewalling of Mr. French has denied him and others the due process afforded by law. This is true whether Mr. French is considered a citizen or a member of the Zoning Board.

Ude said Sandra Lutu of DOC in her instructions to the Pala Lagoon Swimming Pool, Inc. indicated that the Applicant had to go before the Zoning Board as a condition. “If in fact the AG is now reversing all of these procedures, there is a big void where the public should have had input to the process. This again brings to light the lack of due process for our citizens.”

Ude told Talauega that if the Office of the Attorney General will not do its job, it would be upon the public to do so. “My clients would rather your office comply with its Constitutional Duties and protect the Shoreline as stated in ASCA §§ 26.0323(a)(2) and 26.0323(b). There also appears to be an absolute lack of due process involved with the application processes utilized by the PNRS and Zoning Boards that is having a negative impact upon the Pala Lagoon.”

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