LIHU‘E — For a portion of the Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal pedestrian and bicycle path, the county is seeking to use eminent domain on a piece of property an owner wants to sell for over 10 times the appraised value.
A past owner of the property approved an easement with the county at a Waipouli shoreline parcel slated for resort development, but died before it could be executed. The trust estate then sold the property to its current owner, according to a memo from Acting County Engineer Troy Tanigawa to the Kaua‘i County Council.
The county appraised the 2,122 square foot parcel for $39,900 in July 2019.
The current owner then countered with an acquisition price offer of $410,625 on Feb. 7, which the state Department of Transportation right-of-way experts said had “no merit,” according to Doug Haigh, building manager with the county’s Department of Public Works.
The county sent a notice of final offer on February 26. Haigh said the Office of the County Attorney is “fairly confident that we have a very simple, straightforward eminent domain, fully supported by state law.”
“Basically, we take possession of the parcel and the court decides what the fair value is,” Haigh said, noting that the current owner has delayed the process “for many months.”
The county is seeking approval of Resolution 2020-28 by the council authorizing the acquisition of an easement for the path by declaring the necessity of eminent domain. If passed later this month, the county will move forward with legal action.
The DOT gave the county a June 30 deadline to “have our ducks in a row,” Haigh said, so that constructing funding for this portion of the path can be allocated. But since the county is working out how to move forward, this has been put on hold.
The project for the path from Waipouli Canal bridge to Papaloa Road is expected to be finished in 2021.
Haigh said that once federal funds are in place, which should come in August, it’ll take about three to four months to get under contract, then about six months for the competition of this section. The county cannot construct it on the parcel unless it has possession or a right-of-entry.
The county hopes to finish the entire project by 2022.
Councilmember Mason Chock expressed his frustration when a public interest has been “identified, agreed upon, and circumstances change.”
“But when you have off-island investors and speculators who obviously have an interest of just making money …trying to escalate the prices more than what they purchase the project for, I think it is an example of what we have experienced often in this area, and why there is frustration across the island,” he said.
A public hearing was held July 8, and there was no written or oral testimony submitted. The council will take up the matter again at its meeting on July 22.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.