Forcing landowners to be good neighbors

Glenn Pang
Glenn Pang
Rep. Jessica Wooley
Rep. Jessica Wooley

By Paul Drewes bio | email

KAHALUU (KHNL) - Homeowners now have a little more help in keeping their property safe, from hazards on neighboring land, as a bill passes this legislative session. But residents in a small Kahaluu community aren't breathing a sigh of relief just yet.

In a scenic setting on the Windward side of Oahu, a Kahaluu home has been facing a growing problem.

"As the years went on, the tree that's been here forever, it been growing over our property," said Glenn Pang.

As this huge tree's branches spread out over the Pang's home, so has a sense of dread.

"With the various storms we have branches fall down. Its becoming a hazard as the tree comes closer and closer to the house," added Pang.

At the root of the problem, is the unwillingness of the property owner to address their concerns, according to residents in Kahaluu. Calls and letters to trim back the trees that line this community went unanswered, according to Pang and neighbors.

"He wrote like 10 times, no reply, no response" said Pang.

Homeowners are unwilling to trim back the huge trees on this bordering property, because of the expense and the uncertainty of ever being paid back. But now under the bill, the state will take action if landowners do not.

"The government can go in to protect families in the event they are in danger," said Representative Jessica Wooley.

Trees are just one of the hazards homeowners could be facing, there may also be unstable hillsides, rockfalls or even the possibility of flooding from blocked streams on private property.

But under the measure, residents don't have to wait for an accident before action is taken.

"For the landowners, it provides a hammer, to make them take responsibility if they've let the conditions get so bad it is endangering the lives of their neighbors," said Wooley.

Now, along with tree branches, there is hope growing through this small Windward community. Hope that something will be done before its too late.

"Almost every time there's a major storm, we look up and look at the tree...," said Pang.

If the state deems a property hazardous, and takes action to fix the problem, all the costs and expenses by the state will get billed to the landowner. And if they don't pay, a lien could be put on the property.