CIRCUIT COURT FINDS LAW RESTRICTING BEACHFRONT LANDOWNERS’ OWNERSHIP OF ACCRETION WAS AN ILLEGAL “TAKING.” STATE’S APPEAL NOW PENDING BEFORE THE HAWAI`I INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEAL
In 2003, the State of Hawai`i adopted Act 73, which prohibited all private landowners from claiming title to unregistered accretion — despite longstanding state and federal authority establishing that accreted land belongs to those landowners. In 2005, a class action lawsuit was filed challenging the law because it took private property without just compensation. In 2006, the First Circuit Court certified the case as a class action and ruled in the landowners’ favor and against the State of Hawai`i.
The Circuit Court found that Act 73 effected an uncompensated taking of private beachfront owners' land. According to the Circuit Court, if the State persists in declaring accreted land to be "public land," or prohibits the private beachfront owners from registering permanent accreted land adjacent to their property, it must pay compensation for the taking.
This ruling does not affect the public's right to enjoy the land makai of the dividing line between the public beach and the mauka private lands — regardless whether that line is defined by the vegetation line or the debris line. Further, environmental and other laws regulating beachfront landowners' use of their property are unaffected.
The State appealed the Circuit Court’s ruling. The issues have been fully briefed for the Intermediate Court of Appeal. No date for oral argument, if any, has been set, and the parties await the Intermediate Court of Appeal's decision on the matter.
Contact: Paul Alston, Esq. and Laura P. Couch, Esq. (Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing)