County Considers Condemnation of Ranch Lands

. In addition to cultural and historic values, we’re looking at health and safety.”

But he, too, echoed the financial concerns of the county. “The community says they have the money to buy the Ranch. But where is it?”

“We’re not letting the Ranch slide,” said Mayor Charmaine Tavares. “The sooner they’re out of Molokai, the better.”

Baisa and Michael Victorino added warm compliments to Molokai residents on a community-written document known as “Molokai: Future of a Hawaiian Island,” which brings together 30 years of objectives for the island. Acquiring Ranch lands has been a goal of many members of the community for over a decade, and the document highlights how its purchase would facilitate better management of the island’s resources.

“It was tremendous reading, and I really liked the way these people have brought forth a plan of action,” said Victorino. “It shows the resiliency of the people of Molokai.”

Process of Condemnation

Condemnation is the process of taking private property for public use through the government’s power of eminent domain.

Special Council attorney Margery Bronster explained there are two basic issues that are constitutionally required for condemnation to take place.

The first is that it must be done for a public purpose, which can be defined in a wide variety of ways.

The second requirement is that a fair market value be paid for the land to be condemned. This price would depend on a number of factors; most obviously, whether all or just a part of the land is being acquired through condemnation.

Bronster said appraisal of the land can take place before any decision on condemnation is made, allowing the possible price of the land to factor into the decision.

The decision of whether or not to condemn must also include identifying which properties should be acquired, how much the government is willing to spend, and how soon the process should move forward, according to Corporation Council Brian Moto.

A thorough investigation of the property’s possible outstanding legal complications as well as its physical features must also be completed, said Moto.

If a decision is reached to condemn the property, a resolution would be passed by the county and a suit filed in court. The county’s appraiser would then submit a fair value market assessment of the land, which the Ranch would likely contest. It would be up to the judge to decide the final fair market value of the property.

“There is an emphasis on ‘public purpose,’” explained Moto. “But,” he added, “Courts usually just require that the legislative body have a rational reason to condemn.”

Suspended Decision

The County Council made no decision about the condemnation of Molokai Ranch land during the meeting, and the item was deferred for further discussion and investigation.

While the council will continue to deliberate over the matter, one thing is sure: nothing is going to happen overnight.

But the voices of Molokai were heard.

“The very quality of life, health and safety, and our island’s future are at stake here. The people of Molokai are hurting, and the State has not been sympathetic,” said Mateo at the meeting’s conclusion.

“I’m sure that the county will not shy away from its responsibilities and will stand behind the people of Molokai.”

 To learn more about Molokai download "Molokai, Future of a Hawaiian Island" created by the community of Molokai:

http://www.themolokaidispatch.com/molokai.pdf

Or, visit "Molokai – Return to Pono" by created by Matt Yamashita:

http://www.themolokaidispatch.com/node/1913

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