Government officials in 2016 discussed taking land owned by Core Tech International in Ukudu, Dededo via eminent domain, or condemnation with just compensation. Three years later, the government simply took part of that land without paying a cent for it.
The land is a sliver of Lot 10184-6, where CTI’s concrete batch plant is located. The sliver abuts the northern perimeter of Lot 10184-7, the land where Guam Waterworks Authority operates the current Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant. On July 27, 2016, GWA general manager Miguel Bordallo appeared before the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission requesting the commission to endorse a sale of a 17-acre GALC property adjacent to the northwest of the NDWWTP for the expansion of the plant.
The land sale would be authorized by legislation that would later be enacted, a draft of which was considered by the GALC in that July 2016 meeting. The legislation would give GALC the authority to transfer a portion of Ukudu properties “for the construction of the upgrade and expansion of the existing wastewater treatment plant, to include the oxidation ditches … and stormwater basins, from the inventory of the Guam Ancestral Land Commission to the Guam Waterworks Authority.”
That portion of land, according to the legislation, would be “as shown on Department of Land Management sketch identified as Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant (see Exhibit A).”
Exhibit A included the GALC-owned 17 acres to the northwest of Lot 10184-7. It also included the sketch of a future stormwater basin directly east of 10184-7, encroaching onto CTI’s 10184-6.
According to then-director of land management Michael Borja, Mr. Bordallo had “come over to explain this draft legislation which proposes to obtain a portion of crown lands that are adjacent to the current Northern Waste Water Treatment Plant as you can see in the map it is still not recorded as registered property and it is in the process of going through a land registration process.”
Pressed by commissioners, who did not want to sale GWA the northwestern property, why GWA would not consider purchasing the other properties surrounding 10184-7, Mr. Borja made an admission about CTI’s land holdings in the area, that once belonged to the estate of Jose Martinez Torres, and that now is the subject of a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Guam:
“In December 2015 they came to me to ask about the Torres properties that surround and encompass the water treatment plant area so our discussion happened back then, what was available and not available in that area primarily around assumed Torres land that are now under Core Tech that was what we were looking at they weren’t even discussing this expansion, we were trying to figure out land that was supposed to be theirs and as you can see the description of their land doesn’t jive with what it should be in what was given back and so we had those kinds of discussions and what it lead up too. Recently we started looking across the street they asked about the possibility of using Ancestral Lands and that is when this triangle property was proposed not encroaching into private property. They are just exploring there is nothing devious going on here at all we are looking out for the greater good for the entire island of Guam.”
Commissioners pressed the matter further, though, questioning why the adjacent CTI properties were not considered for the expansion.
“The property in that area that the Torres got they flipped it right away and it went to Core Tech, it went to you and you said he was an innocent third party purchaser now the question of the land is out the door because you sold it to Core Tech why don’t you purchase at the same side of the street next to Core Tech instead of asking us,” commissioner Anthony Ada pointed out.
That’s when Mr. Bordallo admitted, “We did ask Core Tech. They refused.”
Bordallo explained to commissioners in that meeting that GWA’s first option was to purchase CTI property, including the portion its GWA sketch indicated there would be a stormwater basin right outside 10184-7’s eastern boundary.
“Alternative ‘A ‘was adjacent to the existing plant,” Mr. Bordallo told commissioners. Commissioner Antonio Sablan then recommended GWA request the legislature authorize the condemnation of the CTI land for GWA.
“We don’t need to go to the legislature for the condemnation process the authority has eminent domain we just have to work with the Attorney General’s office we have no qualms pursuing that route if we need to go that route, to negotiate would be preferable,” Mr. Bordallo replied. “We don’t necessarily want to go through the condemnation process, the other issue being it is a lengthy process and this is a time sensitive project, we have deadlines that don’t move and there is no guarantee the time the AG’s office can affect the condemnation process.”
At the time of the discussion, the clock was ticking on the expansion of the plant, and both the Department of Land Management and GWA were aware of another problem.
“The Department of Land Management is trying to secure this area from being taken over by other private landowners who are desperate to encroach into something that should not be theirs and what should be under crown lands,” Mr. Borja told commissioners, who were opposed to selling the other 17 acre property to GWA. “DLM is not trying to dismember lands away from the Ancestral Lands Commission, we are trying to preserve it as best as we can from a land registration claim.”
That so-called land registration claim was a request by CTI to update the certificate of title on the NDWWTP property (10184-7) to reflect its ownership of the land after the company purchased it from Younex in 2015. The certificate of title, issued by the deputy registrar of titles in 2010, showed Younex owned the land following a sale by the Torres estate. The legal sale to Core Tech was evidenced by a mortgagee’s deed, which was filed with the DLM.
Mr. Borja denied CTI’s request, despite the company’s legal purchase of the property. CTI did not invoice GWA for its use of the property, nor did the company attempt to disrupt the NDWWTP operations.
In December 2018, Mr. Borja sued CTI in the Superior Court of Guam, and asked the court to change the certificate of title to show that the government of Guam owned Lot 10184-7. A few months later, GWA joined the lawsuit, asking the court to quiet title to the lot in GWA’s favor.
Months after GWA joined the lawsuit, the agency bulldozed the CTI fence marking the boundary between CTI’s concrete batch plant and the NDWWTP. GWA then built a new fence that encroached several meters into CTI’s concrete batch plant lot. The new boundary now matches the sketch of the eastern boundary of the NDWWTP lot attached as Exhibit A to the legislation on the transfer of properties to GWA from GALC. GWA already has begun constructing its planned stormwater basin in the encroached area.
Despite its knowledge of the bounds between 10184-7 and 10184-6, and three years after discussing eminent domain as an option for acquiring CTI land, GWA took control of a portion of 10184-6 anyway. The public utility agency did this without going through the condemnation process, or justly compensating CTI.
Following this provocation, CTI counterclaimed in the lawsuit, and now is seeking inverse condemnation damages of about $220 million. Among the counterclaims is the encroachment and the lack of any just compensation from the taking and use of lands CTI legally purchased.