Friday, May 1, 2009

Hazard Mitigation Bill Passes Conference

House and Senate conferees approved a measure that would allow the State to enter on the property of an unresponsive landowner and mitigate hazardous situations after giving the landowner official notice and reasonable opportunity to take care of the problem.

Representative Jessica Wooley (47 – Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaaawa, Waikane, Kahaluu, Ahuimanu, Kaneohe) introduced the measure, House Bill 1713, on behalf of community members who were concerned about the health and safety of their neighbors and families. Kaneohe residents spearheaded the effort after receiving no response from property owner Genshiro Kawamoto in regards to overhanging trees on his adjacent properties that posed a threat to their family's safety and their homes.

"This measure is a victory for the community I represent," Rep. Wooley said. "They're the reason why it is still alive today and we should get it through the legislative process the first time around."

According to the conference draft of House Bill 1713, the State can take action at the discretion of the governor to remove dangerous trees or branches that pose a threat to property, stabilize or remove unstable rock and soil hazards, and clear streams and waterways to prevent flooding. All costs and expenses incurred by the State will be billed to the landowner, and if not paid, the State may put a lien on the landowner's property.

The measure essentially acts as a hammer to encourage property owners to mitigate hazardous situation before the State intervenes. Written notice must be sent to the property owner to allow them to mitigate the hazardous conditions before any action can be taken. If the owner refuses, the governor would need to get a court order to enter the private property.

"The bottom line is landowners should not allow their land to deteriorate so badly that it puts the lives of their neighbors at risk," Rep. Wooley added. "This bill helps to encourage unresponsive landowners to contact their neighbors and take care of dangerous conditions in order to keep our families safe."

The bill will go to the House and Senate for full floor vote and then to the governor for signature.

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