Bill seeks mediation in land value disputes


A bill currently going through the state Legislature would require mediation be sought before arbitration in determining the sale price or lease rental of state lands.

Rep. Cindy Evans, one of the introducers of HB 1823, said she helped draft the bill after a group of people in the Hilo Industrial Park Area expressed concerns with the way the state handles land disputes regarding fair market value or fair market rental of public lands.

“They felt the current way didn’t give them a balanced approach,” she said. “People who do industrial leases are a small group of appraisers. If you pick an arbitrator, you’re picking an appraiser. Since they’re a small group of people, they have concerns that the appraiser or appraisal and the justification wasn’t right and should be adjusted.”

One of those outspoken residents was Jim McCully, a member of the Kanoelehua Industrial Area and local business owner.

He said the current process for settling a dispute is cumbersome, costly and inadequate.

“Hire your own appraiser, if the amounts are close together, sit down with a mediator and come to an agreement and don’t spend more money. Come to an agreement before we have to go to arbitration,” he said.

According to the bill, the purpose of the act is to authorize the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to provide for nonbinding mediation of disputes regarding the fair market value of public lands in transactions involving the purchase, lease or repurchase of the public lands and the fair market rental of public lands under lease when rentals are reopened.

“If they have a dispute, they should come to a mutual agreement by a third person that has an unbiased view,” Evans said. “Thought the process will engage both sides and mediate something before it goes farther, which costs money.”

The bill states:

“… Mediation is an effective method of resolving disputes and should be a method available to resolve disputes regarding fair market value or fair market rental of public lands in transactions involving the Board of Land and Natural Resources and private purchasers, owners, or leaseholders…”

Testimony from Honolulu-based group Citizens For Fair Valuation in favor of the bill states:

“On the other hand, mediators are trained to find common ground that builds upon and often strengthens the business relationship. It changes the mindset of the parties from winning at all costs to understanding the other parties’ issues in order to find a mutually acceptable position. Mediation is not only cost effective and efficient, it preserves and extends the relationship between lessor and lessees to their mutual benefit.”

The House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 19 recommended that the measure be passed. It’s going to the floor for a vote on Tuesday, and if it passes, it will move to the Senate.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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