High court reinstates blocked fee conversion
A ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the green light to homeowners of 34 condominium units of the Admiral Thomas building to continue with the lease-to-fee conversion and condemnation of the land beneath their building.
The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Circuit Court for a hearing to determine how many of the 34 condominium units whose owners applied for the conversion are qualified. At least 25 units are required under the city leasehold conversion law that has since been repealed.
The case was filed in 2003, and the ordinance was repealed in 2005.
"The court again is going to have to look at whether they have enough people," said James Mee, who represents landowner First United Methodist Church, which opposes the leasehold conversion. "The court said that the people who are already in this suit will keep on going."
In sending the case back for further hearing in condemnation proceedings filed by the city, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision that the lease-to-fee law does not apply to properties with mixed uses. In this case the church and the condominium share the same property.
"I think their interpretation is that so long as part of the property is in residential, that's enough," said Mee, who argued that the project did not qualify for the conversion because the property had more than one use.
Mee said that some of the practical applications for the case are unclear now that the law has been repealed.