Sigua Highlands Overview

The Sigua Highlands project is a proposed mixed-use development in Yona which is master planned to accommodate up to 5,000 dwelling units over what could be a 20-30+ year development timeframe.   The proposed development is on less than 10% of the 1,100 acre site, and the project is designed to accommodate future residential growth on Guam within a planned community while preserving and protecting 90% of the property as open space.   The Sigua proposal currently in front of the GLUC is addressing a question of land use, nothing more.  No building approvals are being requested in this application because all relevant GovGuam agencies will be involved separately during the building permitting phase to review every future building improvement to be proposed on the site for compliance with applicable GovGuam law and regulation.

Unique Development Opportunity

A large parcel represents a big opportunity to set a high standard of development, and Texas A&M Foundation has invested significant resources in “doing the right thing” by hiring excellent land use professionals, engineers and environmental / archeological consultants, who over the last 2-3 years worked as a team to design a development proposal which:

a)  Accommodates some of the long term need for housing on Guam,

b)  Properly respects the unique environmental characteristics of the site,

c)  Allows for a major boost in property tax revenues (up to $3 million a year at build-out plus major GRT contributions for constructing every improvement), and

d)  Acts as a catalyst for additional employment and investment by accommodating potential unique uses (including a possible campus development) and a traditional school site.

According to the US Census, between 1990 and 2000, population increased by a total of 21,700 through organic growth and people moving to Guam.  If and when this rate of growth continues (excluding potential buildup growth), housing pressures will continue to exacerbate housing affordability, environmental degradation / water lens impacts and traffic congestion in northern Guam.  These trends will result in a natural shift towards increasing growth in central and southern Guam.  The development of this property can help reduce the congestion and environmental degradation in northern Guam while also helping to keep home prices affordable throughout Guam.    Without good planning, piecemeal development will transfer today’s problems in northern Guam to central Guam tomorrow.

This project is based on an accessible, long-term, mixed-use, environmentally-respectful development plan which took over two years to complete.  The genesis of this plan started with exhaustive Phase1 and Phase 2 environmental surveys of the site, followed by an inventory of all natural constraints including a topographic analysis of the site, three phases of wetlands studies, an archeological inventory, unique flora / fauna analysis, soil conditions review, transportation networks, infrastructure capacity analysis, etc.  Once these constraints were mapped on the site, remaining areas were considered for development.   Because of the high cost of infrastructure requirements to develop the site, it is not feasible to develop the site with a low density residential development program.  The result of all this analysis and planning is that only 10 percent of the site is to be developed, and this preserves and enhances much of the natural character of the Sigua site.

Current Environmental Situation

There is presently significant illegal off-roading on this property despite multiple efforts to curtail this activity by the owner.  The result is that substantial erosion and ongoing excessive sedimentation likely drains into Pago Bay, especially during the rainy season.  This environmental degradation likely contributes to coral destruction, and this will be curtailed by the gradual development of approximately 10% of the site.

Off-roading has also led to destruction of potential archaeological sites.  A responsible land use plan will lead to the protection of archeological assets on the site by the development of multiple parks.

Agricultural Overview

Neither the steep terrain of the site nor the soil types allow substantial economic agricultural / farming uses to be commercially viable on the site.  Therefore, the development of the site does not reduce the farming potential of Guam.  Only a handful of soils on Guam, when irrigated, can be classified as Prime Farmland.  One of these soil types is at the project site, and it occupies a total of about ½ acre of the entire site.  This area does not fall in a development footprint, as it is associated with an identified wetland.  This area will be incorporated into open space and will not be developed.  So the project will neither develop nor disturb ½ acre prime farmland soils, the entire area of Prime Farmland on the site.

It may be possible to provide a small non-commercial agricultural area / growing garden associated with a potential Veterans Administration center on the site.  This could help veterans feel connected to the land, as this is reported to help reduce post-traumatic stress disorder and ease the transition back to non-military life.  It is important to point out that this type of undertaking is also consistent with a potential elderly component on the site, but it would be non-contributory in terms of helping reduce Guam’s reliance on off-island agricultural imports.   Other sites on Guam in northern Guam would better address that need, and this has been highlighted by Department of Agriculture.


The challenge for leaders on Guam is to accommodate future growth in an environmentally-respectful manner with plans that avoid a) significant environmental degradation because of unconstrained and inconsistent development programs, b) incompatible land uses, and c) pressures on infrastructure, etc.  Some past practices have shown that a new planning process is necessary for larger parcels, and separating land use from the building permitting and agency review process is a better way to ensure long term compliance with GovGuam’s development goals.

Sigua Highlands Fact Sheets

1) The Sigua Highlands development proposal consists of approximately 795 acres of a 1,100 acre site.   Only approximately 10% of the site will be developed with housing units.  The development plan includes parceling the property into the following areas:

Dwelling Dwelling

Neighborhood Acres Units Units/Acre

Batea 55 925 16.9

Lonfit 234 925 4.0

Sigua Town Center 171 925 5.4

Sigua Heights 239 1300 5.4

Pulantat 97 925 9.6

Total 795 5000 6.3

Percent Open Space +/90% of site

2) Sigua Highlands may accommodate up to 5,000 dwelling units, but it may take 20-30+ years for all units to be built.

3) We have held 9 different outreach meetings with the Yona, Chalan-Pago and Asan communities to seek input from stakeholders of the Sigua Highlands plan and how it would fit into Guam’s long term growth.

4) Guam’s population and tourism change will drive development and economic development, not an arbitrary construction schedule.

5) Recall that the population growth from 1990-2000 was approximately 21,700 people according to the US census, though this dropped to approximately 4,600 between 2000-2010.  When Guam experiences population spikes in the future due to the buildup or organic growth, Guam’s northern municipalities will not be able to accommodate this growth.   The water lens is already being critically impacted by development in northern Guam, and already bad traffic congestion will become worse.

6) It is inevitable that growth will move towards south-central Guam as population increases.   Sigua Highlands has been designed to accommodate some of that growth in a well-planned land use program which enhances open space in community development.   It is inevitable that growth will occur, and the challenge is to accommodate that growth with utmost care for the environment and quality of life for the island’s residents.   A careful reading of the Sigua project documentation will allow one to recognize that environmental respect has been a critical component through the design of this project.

7) Either Enterprise Foundation or Leeds Environmental Certifications will be a centerpiece of projects developed on the Sigua Highlands site.  These certifications are internationally-recognized and ensure best environmental practices are integrated into design and development on the site.

8) Prior problems with environmental damage to Pago Bay were a result in part of poor implementation of grading control, erosion mitigation and drainage measures.   These problems are exacerbated by off-roading on the site.

9) For Sigua Highlands to be developed, each sub-project (such as a 250 unit elderly project or an educational facility / museum) must pass through an ongoing process of reviews to ensure that best known planning,  construction and development practices are integrated into the project.  Because each project within this master planned community is phased based on demand, each building permit will be reviewed with the knowledge of prior activities and impacts on the site.

10) This ongoing multi-agency review process is an intentional direct control mechanism that will allow GovGuam to ensure that best practices in theory are best practices in action.   A few major mistakes early on could ground the project to a very fast halt.  This process keeps the developer “honest” in his ongoing dealings with the project.   This land use approval is not a “one and done” approval; it is the beginning of a dialog with various GovGuam agencies for ongoing approvals.

11) The Guam Land Use Commission is reviewing a land use plan, not a development permit.  Development permits will be reviewed on an ongoing basis by appropriate agencies, so each agency that signs off on an actual project has multiple levels of further review and inspection.  A land use plan is NOT a building permit.

12) The Sigua Highlands’ market-driven development concept came about as a result of some previous poor investment practices on Guam which resulted in partially-completed developments.   Larger developments were constructed than the market could absorb.   A smaller sub-market by sub-market approach reduces risk of overbuilding substantially.

13) The economics of a larger project will allow for the development of additional affordable housing, a crucial need today on Guam.

14) The developer has had multiple meetings with GHURA and  GHC to learn how to best address Guam’s affordable housing needs.  It has integrated affordable housing into the project because of true need for affordable housing on Guam.

15) Market demand will drive future development.  This means that infrastructure requirements will be established for each new proposed building, and buildings will not be built until there is adequate demand for additional space and utility / infrastructure capacity.  This approach assesses small markets individually on a project by project basis.  This reduces potential “ghost town” buildings being built on site which are too big for market demand and which can stigmatize Guam as a poor investment location.

16) Guam Highlands Investment Group anticipates development of the future land uses :

a. A proposed 250 dwelling unit elderly housing project and

b. A campus / dormitory facility targeting US colleges and War in the Pacific tourism in conjunction with a world class museum similar to the Marine Corp Museum in Quantico, Virginia.

c. Brief discussions have been held with representatives of Manenggon Memorial about consistent goals of development of Sigua and enhancements to the Manenggon Memorial.  This is consistent with the Greatest Generations World War II educational facility.

17) Property included in rezoning petition is approximately 800 acres, but development will only be on approximately 10% of that area.   Approximately 90% of the property remains OPEN SPACE.  Long term density of development is a mechanism for Guam to accommodate growth but also preserve the environment.

18) The Lonfit river valley area will not be developed whatsoever.  It will remain a pristine river corridor, and access to the river will be guaranteed (and enhanced) through a 6 mile trail network on the site.

19) The Sigua River valley will also have a trail corridor, and this will allow legal access to the river and indirectly to Sigua Falls.

20) As part of our planning, scientific water quality assessments were undertaken on both the Sigua and Lonfit Rivers very early in the planning process.  Baseline water quality statistics have been shared with scientists with the University of Guam to provide an open understanding of impacts of any potential development on the site.  If the proponents of this project were not serious in their efforts to protect the environment when developing the site, they would not have shared this information with the University of Guam.

21) Erosion on site from off-roading has been substantial in the area.  Improving the development in the area will reduce these unregulated land uses.

22) This is not a gated community.  Approximately 6 miles of improved trails have been designed to better provide public access throughout the site, including access to the hiking trails to Sigua Falls which is approximately 1 mile west of the Sigua Highlands site.

23) Parks are to be created according to the land use plan around on-site artifacts such as latte stones.  That is not the practice in many projects now where archeological relics are often either removed or forgotten.

24) Wetlands have already been identified through three separate wetland studies.  With the exception of 1 wetland affected by a proposed bridge spanning Sigua River, NO proposed development is located on wetlands.

25) A Memorandum of Understanding with Chalan Pago- Ordot identifies required infrastructure improvements to be developed at important project milestones.

26) Texas A&M Foundation was given this property as a gift from Dwight Look, an alumnus.   The Foundation has made it a project mandate that rezoning this parcel will be transparent and integrate best practices in terms of land planning and development.  The Foundation desires to be a good citizen of Guam in its efforts to achieve its goals.  The Foundation’s commitment is illustrated by its substantial efforts and financial resources expended in this 3 year planning process.

Sigua Highland Team Members:

Project Engineer     Duenas Camacho and Associates (DCA)*
Planning Consultant     Dan Swavely*
Environmental  Consultant    Allied Pacific Environmental Corporation*
Archeological Consultant    David Defant – SEARCH*
Project Surveyor     Gene Villaflores*
Wetland Consultant / Water Quality Engineers  Wright Water Engineers / DCA*
Land Planners      Dunn and Kiley
Project Architect     Fentress Architects – UTOP
Property Owner     Texas A&M Foundation
Project Manager     Rich Jortberg
*- local firms

Sigua Highland Studies / Services Commissioned:

1) Phase 1 environmental study – APEC Environmental – Hagatna, Guam

2) Phase 2 environmental study – APEC Environmental – 100 random core sample collections – tested for environmental contamination

3) Lonfit and  Sigua River soil samples – APEC Environmental

4) Lofit and Sigua River Water Quality Tests -  Wright Water Engineers- Denver, CO

5) Professional surveys – parceling map of the entire site completed by Gene Villaflores

6) Topographic and survey assistance provided to Mr. Villaflores by Flatirons Surveying – Boulder, CO

7) Wetland mapping,  analysis and review – Wright Water Engineers, Duenas Camacho and Associates and Bio Habitats, Denver, CO

8) Infrastructure Assessment and Demand Analysis – Duenas Camacho and Associates

9) Archeological Mitigation Plan – David Defant- Micronesian Archeological Research Services – Guam.

10) Geotechnical analysis – Wright Water Engineers

11) Affordable Housing – Best practices and Guam Assessment – Silver Lake Consulting – Boulder, CO

12) Greatest Generations Foundation –Guam Highlands Investment Group partial sponsorship of US veterans trip to Guam, Iwo Jima and Saipan and ongoing sponsorship of banquets in Denver for veterans.  Commitment to provide a campus setting for multi-national educational facility / museum on Sigua site.   Goal is to integrate with tank farm for World War II memorial.

13) GIS model of site created by Duenas Camacho and Associates and Dunn and Kiley

14) 3-dimensional physical site model milled by Fentress Architects to layout potential development plans on the site for design charette discussed below.

15) 3 day Design Charette for Sigua Highlands project, Denver, Colorado, August, 2011.

Attendees included :

a. Fentress Architects staff (4 members); Denver, CO

b. Dunn and Kiley land planning staff (3 members); Denver, CO

c. Liz and John Duenas  – REMAX and Duenas Camacho Associates; Hagatna, Guam

d. UTOP Engineers -  Seoul, Korea and Los Angeles, CA – 3 members

e. Silver Lake Consulting – Affordable Housing Best Practices (1 member); Boulder, CO

f. Guam Highlands Investment Group – Rich Jortberg, Boulder, CO

g. Texas A&M Foundation, College Station, TX

16) Sketch Up 3D computer modeling and exhibit preparation of potential development views of the site – Dunn and Kiley and subcontractors.

17)  Preliminary architectural concept drawings by Fentress Architects.

18) Detailed architectural services –UTOP.  Provided numerous potential project designs based on conceptual schemes from Fentress Architects.

19) Environmental Impact Assessment (flora,  fauna and wetland analysis coordination) – Duenas Camacho and Associates.

20) Base mapping – LIDAR and other GIS layers.  Duenas Camacho and Associates

21) Grading and Erosion Control Analysis and Best Practices– Duenas Camacho and Associates

22) Traffic impact analysis – Duenas Camacho and Associates

23) Storm water collection analysis – Duenas Camacho and Associates

24) Wastewater collection analysis – Duenas Camacho and Associates

25) Water supply impact and analysis – Duenas Camacho and Associates

26) Electrical impact analysis –EMCE and Duenas Camacho and Associates

27) Gov Guam agency interaction – all agencies that report to GLUC – Duenas Camacho and Associates

28) Dan Swavely – Land planning consultation

29) REMAX – real estate market review and assistance – Liz Duenas

30) Army Corp of Engineers has approved the wetland boundaries from three phases of wetland studies.  Studies and preparation of all permitting activity by Wright Water Engineers, Duenas Camacho and Associates and Bio Habitats.

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