Another Aina Lea legal wrangling still unresolved

KAILUA-KONA — As South Kohala developer Aina Lea Inc. prepares to exit bankruptcy, legal wrangling continues in other matters related to The Villages at Aina Lea.

Bridge Aina Lea — one of the developers of the 3,000-acre site mauka of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Mauna Lani Resort — continues to appeal a federal judge’s awarding of a nominal $1 in damages after the South Kohala developer prevailed over the state in a 2018 federal takings claim case.

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The filing of appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals followed a federal jury siding with the developer on March 23, 2018, agreeing that a 2011 state Land Use Commission decision to reclassify 1,060 acres at The Villages at Aina Lea was a constitutional taking of the property without just compensation.

Bridge Aina Lea had purchased the property in 1999 and in 2009 DW Aina Lea (predecessor to Aina Lea Inc.) entered the picture as a development partner.

The case went to trial after a settlement agreement in which the state agreed to pay $1 million to settle the case rather than go to trial fell through.

After prevailing at trial, Bridge, however, was awarded by the court $1 in nominal damages because the judge, mid-trial, granted part of a motion by the state to set just compensation at $1.

The state also moved for a new trial, but was unsuccessful, and filed its own cross appeal.

Briefings are still being filed in the matter, and a ruling has yet to be issued.

Meanwhile, Bridge Aina Lea LLC’s attorneys were awarded a sliver of the attorneys’ fees and costs sought after prevailing over the state in the above case.

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Bays Lung Rose &Holma, the law firm that has represented Bridge Aina Lea LLC since 2011 when the case was filed in U.S. District Court, will receive from the state $15,085.51 for costs incurred to bring the case to trial in 2018, according to an order issued in late December by Judge Susan Oki Mollway. None was for attorneys’ fees.

The five-figure award is less than 2 percent of the $725,000 in attorneys’ fees and associated costs the Honolulu-based firm sought in April 2018, less than a month after a jury sided with the developer. The $725,000 sought by the law firm included more than $662,000 for attorneys’ fees and $62,000 for associated costs.

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