Attorneys for the County of Hawaii are very pleased with Wednesday’s 85-page state Supreme Court ruling on condemnation actions regarding the Hokulia bypass in West Hawaii.
The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday held that the County’s successful second condemnation of property was legal and not barred by the doctrine called “abatement.” Had the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, there would have been significant delays in the opening of the Hokuli’a bypass.
The case has been returned by the Supreme Court to the Circuit Court in Kona for Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra to make additional findings on two other issues. Judge Ibarra had previously ruled there was a legitimate public purpose in the County’s condemnation of this property. One of the findings Judge Ibarra must now make is whether the County’s condemnation was a pretext to conferring a private benefit on Oceanside, the developer of the project, as alleged by the landowners. After Judge Ibarra makes these findings, another judgment will be issued. If this judgment is entered in favor of the County, the condemnation will stand and the project will continue to move forward as planned.
Attorneys for the County of Hawaii are currently reviewing Wednesday’s 85-page state Supreme Court ruling on condemnation actions regarding the Hokulia bypass in West Hawaii.
The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday said the case should be returned to Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra to consider the landowners’ defense that the land sought by the County through condemnation was for a purpose other than the public interest.
“The decision of the Court does not appear to be fatal as to the bypass road but will require some additional factual findings of the Court before another judgment is filed,” said deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Udovic Wednesday afternoon. “Needless to say we are carefully reading the opinion to distill salient issues.”
Deputy Corporation Counsel Joseph Kamelamela, lead counsel for the County in this case, is off island and has been notified. He will return on Monday.
“There may be additional proceedings, at this time it is too early to tell,” Udovic said. “We will be reviewing the opinion carefully in the next few days.”
Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said only one of the three decisions by the Supreme Court Wednesday was a final decision on whether the first condemnation action in the case abated the second, and that was issued in favor of the County. On the other two, the Supreme Court simply remanded the case back to Judge Ibarra, Ashida said.
“If Judge Ibarra supplements the record with appropriate findings and the Supreme Court believes they are adequate, (and) assuming Judge Ibarra enters findings and orders consistent with what he did earlier, all three issues may be resolved in favor of the County,” Ashida said. “In sum, it is too early to tell.”
Ashida said the major story is that the County prevailed on the abatement issue. “Had we not won the abatement issue, the project would have been halted.”
“So long as Judge Ibarra enters findings consistent with what he did previously, and the Coupes’ attorneys are not able to prove to Judge Ibarra’s satisfaction that the public purpose established by the County was a pretext to give Oceanside a private benefit, the Coupes will not prevail,” Ashida said.
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