Huge crowd at Resolution 258's public hearing - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Huge crowd at Resolution 258's public hearing

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - It was a packed house at the Guam Legislature's Public Hearing Room this morning as dozens of people came out to testify in support of Resolution 258 that opposes the use of condemnation for the purpose of obtaining Guam lands for the military buildup.

While the Department of Defense currently possesses nearly 30% of land on the island, it was apparent by the emotional testimony provided today that there are many island residents who aren't just concerned about the impacts the Marines' relocation will have on our community, but to their livelihoods and land.

Emotions ran high during today's public hearing as residents expressed their frustration with the possibility of land condemnation, as well as their support for the resolution that would prevent the feds from taking their land.  "If the landowners say I'm sorry, my land is not for sale, you need to respect that. If the government says the land is not available because it's committed for something else, they need to respect that. But they have to work together to find alternatives, too," said Senator Judi Guthertz.

She is the author of Resolution 258 and chaired today's hearing. The senator pointed out the areas the military plans to use for its main base as stated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Those areas which are currently non-DoD property include 680 acres of the former FAA housing area, 326 more acres in what's called the Harmon Annex, and the biggest piece of 921 acres of land along Route 15. All which are under private or GovGuam owners today.

"These plans are in the best interest of Americans in the states.  When will our best interests be considered? You must consider our best interests now!" proclaimed GovGuam retiree Gloria Nelson.

She argued island leaders are not doing enough, and that due to its lack of unity it seems like leaders are willing to give away the future of our children to the highest bidder.  "We cannot stand by idly as our cultural resources our homes and the futures of our children are trampled upon, given away or sold to those who do not truly value it.  We have the right to control our lands and our destinies for the sake of our children," she added.

Superior Court Judge Steven Unpingco objecting to the possibility of land condemnation spoke on his personal capacity as a landowner of the Sasayan Valley. Unpingco saying there is no need for the military to acquire non-Department of Defense land as he believes the military has sufficient land to accommodate the buildup.  "DoD owns approximately 40,000 acres comprised of 27% of Guam's total land mass...there are serious public concerns on the proposed activity to conduct live fire training facility in the Sasayan Valley."

Vice-Speaker BJ Cruz, meanwhile, wants more in the community to voice their concerns with the buildup, especially any and all concerns they have with his measure which would have left the option of the Marines relocation up to the people of Guam.  "All of you need to get up and tell them no!  I am diametrically opposed to the buildup. It's not an issue of whether or not I want to deny any of you but Bill 66 is only as it relates to the CLTC and the ancestral lands that's the only thing we have control of."

General Manager of the Guam Racing Federation Henry Simpson who also testified is still waiting to find out when, and if military will condemn the land at the entire Guam International Raceway Park for a single shooting range. The park is CLTC property, and Simpson recalls the military telling him that the land would just be convenient.

He said, "I don't think they've done a very good job at looking at all their options. I think it should be a lot more inconvenient they could live with the property they've got they could fulfill their mission with the property they've got and they could do it and do it safely it may cost them more money it may not be as convenient for them but they could do it."

But there was one person, local businessman James Adkins, who showed more support for the military buildup.  "I don't think anyone has come up with an alternative to the military coming here. If you have, I would love to hear it, because we have looked everywhere to find other businesses and industries to come here," he said.

But right after, residents expressed their disagreement with Adkins, as well as challenged the senators to act on the plans the military has moving forward.

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