Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Legislature, landowners to tackle land resolution

Legislature, landowners to tackle land resolution

Monday, 28 December 2009 04:31
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

RESOLUTION 258 will be heard at 9 a.m. tomorrow in the legislature's public hearing room and its author, Sen. Judi Guthertz, hopes for a big attendance in support of the measure.

Bill 258 expresses the strong opposition of the 30th Guam Legislature and the people of Guam to any use of condemnation for the purpose of obtaining lands for the military buildup or other federal government purposes.

Guthertz also hopes that military representatives will listen carefully and understand how sensitive the issue of the military taking of lands through the method of condemnation is.

“If in fact they have any plans on using land condemnation as a last resort, they must abandon that thought and that plan,” said Guthertz, who chairs the Committee on the Guam military buildup and Homeland Security.

Waste of time

Former Sen. Ted Nelson, whose family owns the property in the Marbo area in Yigo, said yesterday the military must understand that there is a difference between government-owned land and land owned by private owners.

“The federal government should deal directly with the private property owners, but they have ignored us. If they decide to condemn lands, then our input in the draft environmental impact study during those village meetings they held were a waste of time,” said Nelson.

Guthertz believes land-taking will further widen the gap between the military and the citizens of Guam. “If it is a pursued approach, they will alienate many people in this community and I think it would have a very negative impact on the reception of the people of Guam to this buildup,” said the senator.

Proper and fair

“I just want it to be done properly and fairly. And if the military really want to be a partner they have to respect the unfortunate experiences the people of Guam went through in reference to land taking and they have to resist any initiative to replicate that in the future,” she said.

Nelson said that if the federal government is determined to condemn lands, then landowners who desire to sell their property must be paid the fair market value of the lands taken by condemnation. “With our tiny landmass, we're talking about millions of dollars worth of properties. Will they give landowners fair market value?” he asked.

But even then, said Nelson, the federal government has the ultimate say.

“In the end, who can prohibit the use of the power of eminent domain to take private property to be used for the buildup? Only the federal government has this authority,” said Nelson.

The government of Guam also has the power to condemn lands for public use.

Lost assets

Speaker Judi Won Pat noted that many Chamorro families have seen the loss of many of its assets through condemnation.

While supporters of such condemnation argue they should be upheld so long as the landowner receives "just compensation," landowners know from experience that forced taking of their lands almost never results in a fair economic result for the landowner, the speaker said.

Further, it does not compensate landowners for the emotional loss of inherited lands that have been theirs for generations. “Condemnation of lands goes beyond whether a family received fair market value. It is the loss of a legacy that was intended for the benefit of the future generations of those family members who left it to be cared for and passed on,” said Won Pat.

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