County of Kauai to use eminent domain to acquire property

Sean Ahearn

The Kauai County Council voted to proceed with the acquisition of 23.5 acres of property in Kilauea using the process of eminent domain. The county plans to use the property to build affordable housing. Eminent Domain means "the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation."

The vote in favor of adopting Resolution 2021-27 came after a lengthy discussion about Kauai’s affordable housing crisis. The council’s decision to use eminent domain to obtain the property comes after negotiations with the landowner fell apart over the last two years. The landowners valued their property at around $30 million and the county was unwilling to pay that amount. 

It was said that the two parties were too far apart in price that they were not going to come to a negotiated agreement to purchase the property by normal means. The county supposedly had no over-arching desire to use eminent domain to acquire the property, but that it was necessary because of the inability to negotiate a price. The process will proceed to court, where a fair market price for the property will be determined. The landowner will be able to dispute the necessity and legality of the claim in court.

The county’s use of eminent domain was stated to not be a predatory action and pointed out that the county has tried everything they could to move forward with housing projects across the island, including at the Waimea 400 site and Lima Ola Workforce Housing.

However this plays out, the property is currently zoned for agricultural use and will need to be rezoned through the county and state before housing can be developed on the site, that process could take one to two years. 

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