Ten years after plans for its creation were announced, the Puerto Rico Planning Board released Thursday the draft document of the Land Use Plan and Planning Guidelines, intended to guide the island toward a model of full and sustainable socio-economic development.
During a morning news conference, Planning Board President Luis García-Pelatti, said the document represents the administration’s commitment to achieve planned, sustainable development in harmony with three key elements: the economy, the environment and citizens.
“It is important to note that the process of planning involves identifying, distributing, organizing and regulating human activities by establishing criteria and priorities,” García-Pelatti said. “This plan represents a goal for each and every Puerto Rican and presents a vision to integrate all the components that make a better quality of life possible.”
Now that it’s ready, the plan will be open to public comments during a 90-day period that starts Mar. 24, he said. The three-month period exceeds the 30-day comment window established by law. Public hearings will take place in Arecibo, Mayagüez, Ponce, San Juan, and Humacao.
The final version of the Land Use Plan should be ready by June, he said.
“This process will not only include public hearings, but will extend to forums, roundtables, lectures at universities, organizations and meetings with representatives of the public and private sectors, as well as environmental and a strong presence on social networks, especially Facebook and Twitter,” García-Pelatti said.
Part of that public input process will help shape policies related to agriculture and ecology, he said.
“The guides are there, and we’re looking for ways to integrate citizen proposals into the plan,” he said. “Puerto Rico has developed in a scattered manner and that’s something we must reverse. With a strategy and a plan, we will learn from our mistakes.”
Among other things, the draft document found that there are 250,000 people in Puerto Rico who live in high-risk areas. Furthermore, he said 40 percent of housing being built on the island is “outside the formal process.”
“We have to transform that and it will be difficult because it must be done gradually. Part of the responsibility falls on the Planning Board for failing to establish where people could build and where they couldn’t. This plan establishes that and does so with solid criteria,” García-Pelatti said.
The Land Use Plan seeks to reduce time and costs of processing authorizations and permits, preserving Puerto Rico’s natural and agricultural resources, promote orderly development and position Puerto Rico toward establishing food security making full use of the land available.
“We have some very significant ecological values and only 7 percent of them are protected by a legal instrument,” he said. “We’ve identified 600,000 acres of land ideal for agriculture, which contrasts to the 67,000 acres identified today.”