January 04, 2017 Article

Hawaii Court of Appeals Draws a Bright Line in Eminent Domain

In larger parcel analysis, unity of contiguity means parcels must touch

by Robert H. Thomas

Efforts by Hawaii’s County of Kauai to expand a public beach park ultimately raised three condemnation issues resolved by the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) in a decision this spring in County of Kauai v. Hanalei River Holdings, Ltd., No. CAAP-14-0000828 (Haw. Ct. App. Mar. 31, 2016). Specifically, the court addressed the following issues:

  1. Can a condemnor revise its initial appraisal downward and withdraw a portion of the deposit, which otherwise allows it to take immediate possession pending the determination of just compensation?
  2. For the purposes of severance damages, is an owner precluded from showing that the taken property is part of a larger parcel because the parcels are not physically touching?
  3. When is a condemnor’s deposit “conditional,” and thus not fully available to the property owner, triggering the obligation of the condemnor to pay interest?

The case involves three parcels on Kauai that were condemned by the county for the expansion of a public beach park. As discussed in detail below, the ICA got some critical things wrong.

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