Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Request to Stymie Dandan Development Denied

Request to stymie Dandan development denied
by Mindy Aguon
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Supreme Court of Guam declined a request to stop the government from spending money to develop a landfill at Dandan. Former Ordot-Chalan Pago mayor Rosanna San Miguel and several other residents made the request believing the landfill should be built at either Guatali or Malaa. Justices determined that the Government of Guam - specifically the Department of Public Works and the Guam Environmental Protection Agency - was authorized to exclude the two sites.

The high court also found that the Guam Legislature had granted the government the authority to select alternative sites for a landfill, which includes Dandan and upheld the validity of Public Law 24-272.

The court's opinion reads as such:

The Supreme Court of Guam today issued an Opinion in the case San Miguel v. Department of Public Works, 2008 Guam 3, which declined Plaintiffs-Appellants’ request to order the government not to continue expending funds on the development of the new landfill at Dandan until alternative sites at Guatali and Malaa were further considered as potential landfill sites.

Plaintiffs-Appellants in the case were taxpaying citizens of Guam who sought to have the landfill built at either Guatali or Malaa, and not Dandan. In Public Law 23-95, the Legislature named Guatali and Malaa as the primary and secondary sites for the new landfill, but stated that those sites could be excluded “for any legitimate reason.” The Defendants – including the Department of Public Works, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, and others – excluded Guatali based on slope and geological exclusionary criterion, and excluded Malaa based on slope exclusionary criteria and existing land use incompatibility.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the Defendants with respect to the Guatali site, finding that it was lawfully excluded because it was owned by the federal government. Plaintiffs asked the trial court to reconsider that ruling, but the trial court declined that request. The trial court heard a motion for preliminary injunction with respect to Malaa, which it denied because the court found that the Defendants had “appropriately considered and rejected [it] as a proposed landfill site.”

On appeal, Plaintiffs-Appellants sought a reversal of the lower court’s denial of the motion for reconsideration and the motion for preliminary injunction. The Guam Supreme Court declined on jurisdictional grounds to consider the appeal of the lower court’s motion for reconsideration. The court reviewed the denial of the preliminary injunction, and found that the Defendants had acted within the authority granted to them by the Legislature in excluding Malaa as a potential landfill site. Specifically, the court found that excessive slope was a “legitimate reason” to exclude a site from consideration. The court also found that the Legislature had granted Defendants the authority to select alternative sites for landfills, including Dandan, through Public Law 24-272, which the court found was valid law.

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