by Lannie Walker from KUAM.com
Guam - It seems the Tiyan landowners who are in line to receive the Federal Aviation Administration property in South Finegayan are having not only to deal with a lawsuit filed by other original landowners, but there's no telling what challenges may lay ahead now that Uncle Sam wants the same piece of land.
Landowner Benny Crawford told KUAM News, "We at one time thought wow we are going get dirt we are going to build our ranch and do what we need to do and life goes on, but now with that military buildup, that's not going to happen. However, we realize now that there is a need for these two parcels: the FAA and the Marbo Command."
According to the Record of Decision the Department of Defense plans to use the former FAA property in South Finegayan to build homes for the U.S. Marines and their dependents. Yet this same piece of property is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a number of original landowners who argue that a new public law that deeds the land as well as land at Marbo Command to Tiyan landowners is unfair.
The Tiyan landowners are being given these properties in exchange for the government taking their properties for use by the airport. Crawford has been at the forefront of the battle for compensation, and said, "Originally it wasn't about finances it was about the dirt and now it turned out to be about finances and it might be lucrative for the landowners. And if that would be the case right on more power to the landowners."
But according to the Tiyan land swap law, the Guam Legislature made known that their intention was not for these ancestral lands to be made available to the Department of Defense. So the worst-case scenario, should the military moves forward with the ROD, would be that one of the recourses it might have to pursue is condemnation.
Crawford continued, "However if they are going to condemn the land that doesn't leave the landowner in a good situation because condemnation would be fair market value and leaves us out of the negotiation, how much and how to use land for."
On the other hand, Attorney Curtis Van De Veld, who represents landowners against the Tiyan land exchange law, believes there's billions that could still be made. But it wouldn't be just for Tiyan landowners but all original landowners under the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission. "And it's going to be substantial," he noted. "The estimate is in excess of $2 billion."
Van De Veld still believes the deal with the Guam Economic Development Authority and Jortberg Properties is still valid. The two sides were on the cusp of signing a deal to lease the GALC's FAA property when public law was signed mandating that same piece of land be deeded to Tiyan landowners. GEDA subsequently withdrew the request for proposal.
The attorney explained, "When you make an offer and it is accepted, you create a contract. And there was no termination of the offer prior to the acceptance was my understanding, so I think there is likely to be a binding lease on the property."
While Jortberg Properties has not indicated what it plans to do about the GEDA request for proposal, Van De Veld is still moving forward with his clients case, hoping to strike the Tiyan land swap law so that all landowners will benefit no matter what's done with the land. Van De Veld's request for a temporary restraining order has already been granted by a superior court judge, with additional hearings planned ahead.
"At that point, it will simply be a matter of submitting legal argument to the court and letting the court come up with a full and complete judgment in a short period of time which in the best interest of everyone," said Van de Veld.