Nov '23

HART board approves eminent domain filing for Kalihi property – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

An unfinished section of the HART Skyline ends near Middle Street and Dillingham Boulevard.
The rail agency’s planned condemnation of property at 1829 Dillingham Blvd. also will force a nearly 60-year-old business to relocate. Read more
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The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s board of directors Thursday approved filing an eminent domain against one family’s industrially zoned property in Kalihi.
The rail agency’s planned condemnation of property at 1829 Dillingham Blvd. also will force a nearly 60-year-old business to relocate.
But HART says securing fee- simple ownership of that property paves the way for Skyline’s 14th station — Mokauea — to be built along the rail line’s current 19- station route to Kakaako.
Deemed Skyline’s Kalihi area station, Mokauea is slated for construction across the street from the sought property, on the corner of Dillingham Boulevard and Mokauea Street.
That future station is part of the nearly $10 billion rail project’s last leg — the City Center segment — which is scheduled for completion by 2031.
Owned by the Takara family, the 7,855-square-foot parcel in question is also home to Service Printers Hawaii Inc., a commercial printer in business since 1964. The full property’s total assessed value is approximately $2.9 million, according to the city’s Real Property Assessment Division.
Service Printers declined to comment on HART’s eminent domain action.
The Takara family could not immediately be reached for comment.
Prior to the board’s vote, Krista Lunzer, HART’s director of transit property acquisition and relocation, said the eminent domain was required for this property as it will “hold the facilities necessary to power the station that will be on the property across the street from this one.”
“So it is needed for the project,” she added.
Previously, rail staffers laid out HART’s planned eminent domain after the agency said it sought a financial agreement with the Takara family since 2014.
In that year, HART said it presented an acquisition offer to the property’s named owner — Jennine Hatsue Takara — for the parcel’s full acquisition.
That offer, however, was rejected.
Over the years, the agency said it attempted several times to negotiate terms with the owner toward the property’s acquisition but to no avail.
By May, HART sent a notice to the City Council regarding its intentions to formally condemn the Takara family’s Dillingham Boulevard property, despite its owners’ objections.
According to the city Department of Corporation Counsel, the rail agency — in the wake of a vote by its board in late April — had the right under the City Charter to proceed with condemnations so long as the Council did not adopt a resolution objecting to the action within 45 days of notification.
The 45-day window for the Council to object expired in July, as the nine- member panel took no formal action to block the property’s condemnation, the city said.
Walter Takara, one of the owner’s sons, did object to HART’s effort to take his family’s property.
“Reason No. 1, this property has been in our family for three generations with a very rare, fortunate case of having just one tenant for 43 years in Service Printers Inc.,” Takara told HART’s Government Affairs-Legal Matters Committee in April. “Throughout these years we have built a great relationship, and Service Printers has proved to be an outstanding business member serving the greater Kalihi community and customers islandwide.”
Takara said Service Printers employs 30 and has “a multitude” of vendors.
At Thursday’s meeting, Lunzer noted the most recent negotiations with the Takara family over its property remained unresolved.
“The amount of just compensation has been determined,” she said. “An updated written offer was provided to the owner in October of 2023. The owner has been given a reasonable time to consider the offer.”
Lunzer said the Takara family did submit a “counter offer” to HART on Nov. 2, “which we are responding to.”
But pending an agreement, she asserted the rail project must roll forward.
“In order to adhere to the project construction schedule, it’s necessary for us to refer the property to condemnation,” she said. “Efforts will be made to continue to negotiate with the owner,” while the property’s current tenant would be relocated.
“This is done with Service Printers’ authorization,” she added. “Typically, we would not discuss relocation matters in public, but we did talk with them, and thought it was important to let the board know and the public know the status of the Serv­ice Printers relocation.”
She said “it will be necessary for them to vacate the site upon acquisition of the property. … As such, Serv­ice Printers will be eligible for relocation benefits.”
“Service Printers has identified a replacement property and is currently working to modify the site to accommodate their property and equipment,” Lunzer told the board. “Service Printers anticipates moving in the spring of 2024, without any interruption of its business operations.”
With regard to this planned eminent domain, board member Robert Yu wished to know more, particularly about HART’s construction schedule.
“At what point will not getting this property affect the construction schedule?” Yu asked.
In response, Lunzer said the “property needs to be vacant of the tenant and then needs to be demolished.”
“And so we cannot issue a ‘90-day notice to vacate’ to the tenant until HART has possession of the property,” she added. “We still need to file the condemnation, get possession, before we can do that.”
Demolition work on the property is planned for early next summer, she said.
“So the current schedule of the tenant moving out in May works fine,” she said. “But we’re at right about that point where if we do not proceed, we’re going to start impacting construction.”
Meanwhile, Lunzer said HART is expected to retain ownership of the Takara property but grant easement rights to Hawaiian Electric Co. so that the utility can house an above-ground, 138-kilovolt transmission line and a related transformer on-site.
“It’s my understanding it’s to power the station,” she said, noting the high-voltage line and accompanying equipment will be used “exclusively for HART.”
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