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HART plans to condemn 2 parcels of land

By Justin Fujioka
Published On: Jan 24 2013 09:03:00 PM HST

The agency in charge of Honolulu's rail transit project notified the City Council of its plans to condemn two parcels of land because their owners are putting up a fight.

HONOLULU -

A battle is brewing for land in Central Oahu.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation notified the City Council on Thursday of its plans to condemn two parcels of land along its proposed rail transit route.

HART has already acquired 21 residential properties along through successful negotiations and settlements, with the city dishing out millions of dollars to land owners.

All remaining parcels are business and commercial properties, including a small parking lot along Kamehameha Highway, fronting Stuart Plaza in Pearl City.

HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas said, "It impacts five parking spaces for a particular owner."

The owner's lawyer disagrees, saying 13 stalls would be lost, severely impacting tenants.

There is a large parking lot in the back of Stuart Plaza, but tenants like Bonzai Tattoo says no one likes parking back there, especially at night, because of a security problem.

"So you know, we kind of feel more comfortable having the customers stay up here in the front," said Mike Higuchi, an artist at Bonzai Tattoo.

The other property is a nine-acre plot on Farrington Highway near Leeward Community College.

"It's zoned agricultural, but it seems to be being used as an industrial and they're asking us to come up with a price based on industrial," according to Grabauskas.

But the land's owners, Richard and Karen Lee, say it's not about the money.

"We have asked the city if they could provide an area for us (that's) compatible," said Richard Lee.

Karen Lee said, "They said they won't exchange because they're not in the real estate business."

The Lee's say the city originally offered them $500,000 for the land. Then Karen Lee said ,"They were going to offer us a dollar and I said, 'A dollar? That's ridiculous.'"

Grabauskas said the Lee's land was found to be contaminated and that the clean up could cost more than the property's value, which is the reason for the $1 offer.

The City Council has 45 days to review the action.
If it does not object, the HART board may proceed to court, following public notice and testimony.

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