Families fight over land lot - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Families fight over land lot

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - It's another example of just how bad things are at the Chamorro Land Trust Commission: two neighbors playing a game of tug of war over a land lot that has left both sides pointing fingers.  Today the Chamorro Land Trust Commission stepped in the middle to try to sort out the mess. 

Edward Cruz showed our camera crew around the property he has lived on since the 1970s in the central village of Mangilao. He says when he returned from a three-month off island trip over twenty years ago he received a big surprise.  "So when we came back I said, 'Hey, I got a neighbor!'"

Next door the Mesa family had built a house on what Cruz claims is his property under a lease by the Department of Land Management.  "The one-acre lot all the way up to where the Mesas built his concrete house is our property," he said.

Thomas Mesa says his family did not take the land it was given to his mother by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, adding, "She [his mother] has been here since 1988."

Mesa says the land was available because he claims the Cruz's lease ran out.  "It's vacated due to the expiration of his lease, and you know why?  They gave it to my mom," he explained.

But Cruz says his lease never expired and the land should never have been given to the Mesas by CLTC.  "So I went down there and said, 'How come that guy is there?' and they say someone put them there by mistake then I keep digging and was told Alan Quan put them in there," he recalled/

CLTC Acting Administrator Jesse Garcia says Quan (who is employed at the Commission as a land agent) has been temporally reassigned to the Piti Mayor's Office due to a conflict of interest with agency over a lease Quan himself holds. Cruz blames Quan for the problem and says the former land agent divided his property into three separate lots then distributed it to Chamorro Land Trust lease recipients.

He said, "At that time I went to CLTC and asking, 'How do I get my land back?', 'cause they told me its under CLTC and they said no problem you are seniority you are still on the land but what gets me is someone is saying on my property they said no, no, no they can't do that the one acre is yours."

Mesa says the CLTC has offered to cut his mom's land back but says that would be unfair, saying, "Now they are proposing to short change her to satisfy Mr. Cruz." 

And Cruz says the land never should have been given away in the first place, noting, "This is all our one acre that land management gave us for Arenedo over some 20 to 30 years ago.

The longstanding land dispute between the Cruz's and the Mesa's came to a head today when officials from the CITC came out to try and resolve the matter.  Bob Barber from the University of Guam, who is now working with the Commission to help resolve some of these land disputes, says coming to a resolution may take some time because the land in question may not have even been in the CLTC's inventory.

"I understand what Bob was saying that it wasn't registered by why would the Government of Guam authorize how many families in this whole tract - a quarter-acre if it wasn't authorized," he said.

And while that bigger question remains unanswered, Garcia say the Trust's legal counsel will now review all the information and present a legal opinion to the CLTC's board.

In the meantime, both Cruz and Mesa are standing firm on their grounds.

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