Thursday, February 18, 2016

Contentious Meeting at the Chamorro Land Trust Commission

Published by KUAM News on Feb. 18, 2016.

By Ken Quintanilla

The approval of up to 600 acres of Chamorro Land Trust property to be used for commercial purposes will have to wait - that's the decision by the CLTC, who tabled any action following concerns not just from the public, but commissioners as well.

"Our people must line up to individually apply for land and we believe that so, too, must these commercial business applicants," explained Catherine Flores McCollum. As part of the I Nasion Chamorro organization, she was one of several island residents who continue to oppose the Chamorro Land Trust's plans to lease out 600 acres of property for commercial use. "They may ask for a small amount to see if the commission can screen each commercial individuals request, but to just outright give them randomly 600 acres this is so ludicrous," she said.

The purpose of leasing out the properties for commercial use is to generate revenues to help fund much needed land surveys and infrastructure for residential and agricultural applicants who have been waiting for decades.

For social work student Luke Duenas, he says why doesn't the trust just collect money owed from people already leasing out commercial properties. He said, "Have you not learned from the past - instead of commercial leasing more land, bring justice to those who are not even paying. And the property value from back then as tripled if not quadrupled until now, so that's the solution you have to have more regulations on the people who are currently paying."

Department of Land Management director Michael Borja, however, says it's not an overnight thing and involves a lengthy process. "There is a really strict process laid out by the law that we also have to follow because they do have their rights, as well," he detailed.

That didn't sit well with McCollum, who said the CLTC has the power to evict anyone who doesn't belong there. "Find out why are these people are using having a business on a Chamorro Land Trust property. And if they're not paying, kick them out! And they're not even Chamorro - what the heck are they doing there?"

And just as the public had concern, so did CLTC chairman Joseph Cruz, who said, "This is not a win-win situation for Chamorro Land Trust, that's how I feel. So you make the move, because I'm not voting for a list."

Cruz wanted to know what were the pros and cons the CLTC would encounter if they moved forward with the leases. He said he wasn't comfortable making a vote, saying, "A lot of these are just your say, I work for the government and I don't appreciate looking at this like a rubber stamp - I don't. Everything in here could have been done better."

Commissioners eventually tabled the item on the agenda.

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