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Written by Kevin Kerrigan Tuesday, 15 June 2010 14:40

 

Balli Says They Have A Valid Lease;                       GEDA Says Its In Default 

The Guam EPA would not respond to requests for comment Tuesday from PNC News on the controversy surrounding Balli Steel.  Spokesman Gerry Cruz said GEPA has received a letter from Balli's lawyer John Terlaje regarding the possibility of legal action against GEPA over the agency's handling of  Balli's Polaris Point junk yard.

 Balli spokesman David Bell declined to discuss the action initiated by their lawyer.

However, in a telephone interview,  Bell countered Senator Ben Pangelingan's suggestion Monday that Balli had lost its lease on its Ancestral Land property at Polaris Point.

Balli's Polaris Point junk yard is supposed to be the centerpiece of the Mayor's Abandoned Vehicle Collection Program, a program in limbo because GEPA shut the yard down in April for violations and they have not given Bali the OK to re-open it yet.

Ancestral Land Commission property is administered by the Guam Economic Development Authority [GEDA]. Bell says that Balli has been paying $3,500 a month for using the Ancestral Land property. Bell provided a copy of the lease agreement, which shows that it expired yesterday, Monday June 14th, 2010. However Bell explains that it is a continuing lease which has not expired.

Read the lease agreement

Bell acknowledges that Balli has also been assessed an additional $1,500 dollars a month after GEDA determined that Balli was using more land than originally authorized. Bell says Balli does not dispute the additional assessment but acknowledges that they have had difficultly paying it and they are behind in those payments. The record of payment provided by Bell shows that Balli is in arrears by $53,000.

Read Balli Steel's record of payment

However, GEDA Spokeswoman Rita Nauta, told PNC News in an email:

"In response to your inquiry regarding the status of Balli Steel's lease for the Piti property under the Ancestral Land Use Commission, GEDA has issued a Notice of Default under the lease agreement.  We have since referred this matter to our legal counsel for review."

Rita Nauta
Marketing & Communications Manager
Guam Economic Development Authority
Aturidad Inadilanton Ikunumihan Guahan

But Bell responds that Balli has communicated with GEDA and has continued to make payments as scheduled and GEDA has accepted those payments. Bells says that GEDA appears to be satisfied that the lease is still in effect, as is Balli Steel.

Bell also acknowledged that Balli has an interest in Hua Mei's junk yard site on Batulo Road in Dededo.  But he says that yard has been shut down for months and is no longer receiving any junk.

Bell said that "Mike" Mei had authorized Balli to use the yard a few years ago when Mei left island. He says that Balli sought and received permission from the Chamorro Land Trust Commission Chairman to use it.

The site that Balli, and previously Hua Mei, occupy in Dededo; as well as the land used by neighboring Global Recycling on Betulo Road,  is all Chamorro Land Trust property.

Yet, documents provided to PNC News show that Hua Mei's solid waste permit for its Batulo road junk yard expired 17 months ago, in December of 2008.

Because it is Chamorro Land Trust Land, GEPA in March of this year, cited CLTC for allowing solid waste to accumulate on the site. In addition, GEPA cited the CLTC for allowing Balli Steel to use Hua Mei's  junk yard without a valid License Agreement and without a valid Solid Waste Management Agreement.

The GEPA citation states that the CLTC allowed Balli Steel to collect, store and process solid waste on the site in a manner that degraded the 
environment and created a health and safety hazard.

GEPA's citation against the CLTC orders the commission to stop Balli, Hua Mei and Global from accepting anymore junk on CLTC land; to post "No Dumping" signs;  to remove overgrown vegetation and to come up with a work plan to segregate and remove the co-mingling wastes.

It would be a herculean task which CLTC Director Jesse Garcia told PNC News on Monday is beyond the capacity of the CLTC to do. 


  www.guampdn.com

By Steve Limtiaco June 15, 2010 Pacific Daily News 

        Bill to overhaul Land Trust:                        Applicants pay for maps, can't use land


The Chamorro Land Trust lease program continues to be a false promise to some island residents, who spent thousands of dollars to have their lots surveyed, only to be denied at the tail end of the transfer process.

The Chamorro Land Trust holds public land in trust for the island's indigenous Chamorros, who are allowed to apply for agricultural and residential leases of Trust property. The Land Trust also leases commercial property to generate revenue.

Gov. Felix Camacho yesterday announced that legislation to restructure the Chamorro Land Trust Commission was submitted to lawmakers last Friday.

"This draft legislation was developed by an active working group committed to changing the way the CLTC does business," he said in a written statement. "The problems that have plagued this program over the past decade will not be solved overnight. We are confident that when this bill is passed, all of the changes will do much to ensure that the CLTC's mandate for the effective and responsible use of our public lands is met now and in the future."

Maps

The Land Trust has been showing land to residents, who have been paying to have the land surveyed and mapped, but the commission now is refusing to sign off on those maps because the property doesn't have the legally required infrastructure.

Dededo resident Margaret Taitano said a Land Trust employee showed her an agricultural lot in August 2009. She decided to accept it, despite the abandoned vehicles and other waste that had been illegally dumped there.

It was close to a road, had access to power and was near her home, she said last week.

Taitano said she wants to create a botanical garden on the property, to grow the types of traditional medicinal plants she said are disappearing from Guam. Taitano said she paid $2,400 to have a map made of the one-acre agricultural lot and the adjacent Land Trust lot selected by her sister, Norma.

No infrastructure

The Department of Land Management added a statement at the bottom of the map, Taitano said, requiring Land Trust Executive Director Jesse Garcia to attest that he was complying with minimum subdivision requirements, as stated in Guam law.

Garcia wouldn't sign the map, she said, because he felt he would be committing perjury.

In Taitano's case, the Land Trust needs to build roads on the Dededo property, as required by the subdivision law, before the map can be legally recorded. The Land Trust can't afford to put in roads and has no plans in place to do so.

"I did my part," Taitano said. "I want my money back, and let them have their property."

"She's not the only one with that type of problem," Garcia said last week. He said Taitano was not forced by the commission to pay for a land survey. Taitano signed a document provided by former Executive Director Joe Borja.

Garcia said the Land Trust used to sign leases before maps were drawn and recorded, but there have been problems with the maps. He said there are probably hundreds of unrecorded Land Trust maps at the Department of Land Management as a result. The main problems with the maps is they don't comply with subdivision laws, he said, or the property in question is "unregistered," which means it doesn't officially belong to the government of Guam.

The approval process changed when he took over last year, Garcia said, and leases are signed only after maps are recorded at Land Management.

In the works

The solution for all those lease applicants -- money to build roads and other infrastructure to comply with subdivision laws -- is in the works, Garcia said.

The administration last week sent lawmakers proposed rules and regulations for the Land Trust commercial lease program, Garcia said, and the revenue from those leases will pay for infrastructure on Land Trust property.

Garcia said the money currently collected from commercial leases of Land Trust property is enough to pay for the Trust's operations, but not enough to pay for anything else.

Problems

The Land Trust's commercial program was shut down last year because of problems with the leases.

The Pacific Daily News last year reviewed all of the commercial leases in the commission's files and found the commission's charges for commercial land are inconsistent; there have been calculation errors when determining fees; and changes approved by the board aren't reflected in the paperwork.

The Land Trust should have been collecting close to $1 million a year, based on the lease documents, but it has been collecting only half that amount.

The legislation submitted to lawmakers on Friday also sets new rules for the commercial lease program -- including standard lease rates for commercial property and public notice when land is classified as commercial. It also would end the current 25-year limit on commercial leases and allow the Land Trust Commission to establish "acceptable parameters" for leases.

Another major issue is the Land Trust inventory, Garcia said. It needs to be cleaned up to verify who is occupying Land Trust property and whether anyone is squatting there. You can't lease someone a lot if someone else is on the site, claiming ownership, he said.

A pilot program is being created to identify the types of issues that need to be addressed on Trust property, he said.

Additional Facts

Performance Audit Reports

Ypao Point Development