Thursday, March 20, 2003

House panel OKs bill
to curb city’s powers

It clarifies the law and excludes condos
from condemnation for lease-to-fee conversion

By Crystal Kua

The city would not be able to use its powers of eminent domain to carry out mandatory lease-to-fee conversion for condominiums, under a bill approved yesterday by a state House committee.

Legislature 2003

Legislature Directory

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

The action at the Legislature came on the same day that the City Council gave the green light to forming a task force of landowners and apartment owners to try and resolve disputes over a 12-year-old city ordinance that lets the city condemn land under condominium buildings so that lessees can buy the fee interest in their units.

Rep. Ezra Kanoho (D, Kauai), chairman of the House Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, said Senate Bill 1468, SD1, HB1, clarifies that the state's intent in passing the Land Reform Act of 1967 was that mandatory leasehold conversion would apply only to single-family homes.

"The state didn't mean it for condominiums," Kanoho said. "The state has to statutorily reflect the change because the original mission was to allow single-family residential conversion, and that has been accomplished."

Kanoho said the bill "is aimed to help the small landowners so they can retain ownership."

But he said the bill would not apply to the current controversy over condemnation proceedings related to the Kahala Beach condominium, which sits on land owned by the Kamehameha Schools. That is because the bill excludes properties already in litigation. The bill will be heard next by the House Judiciary Committee next Thursday.

City Councilman Romy Cachola, a former state representative, said it is too early in the session to know the final fate of the Senate bill, but he said if the bill makes it out of the Legislature and passes legal muster, it would mean the end of condominium leasehold conversion.

But until that happens, the Council will continue with the process to form the task force to resolve as many differences as possible, said Cachola, chairman of the Executive Matters Committee, which will oversee the task force.

The measure passed by the Council calls for the task force to consist of three representatives each for lessors and lessees, with a neutral facilitator. The task force will come out with a report six months after it is officially formed.

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