$1.7 million proposed for CLTC lands survey

BILL 47-34: Sen. Tom Ada speaks during a legislative session at the Guam Congress Building in this file photo. Ada has proposed a bill to appropriate $1.7 million to survey land held by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission. Post file photo

"The CLTC does not currently have the manpower to complete a project of this scope; thus, private surveyors will need to be contracted to complete the survey and mapping requirements in a timely manner." - Sen. Tom Ada

A new bill introduced Monday by Sen. Tom Ada proposes to appropriate $1.7 million to survey land held by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

According to a statement released by Ada's office, approximately 9,000 acres of CLTC lands have not yet been surveyed and registered, and over 85 CLTC master plan subdivisions need to be surveyed into individual lots.

"Bill No. 47-34 (COR) appropriates funding for CLTC to complete the surveying of Chamorro Land Trust lands for the purpose of land registration and for creating lots for residential and agricultural leases," according to Ada. "The CLTC does not currently have the manpower to complete a project of this scope; thus, private surveyors will need to be contracted to complete the survey and mapping requirements in a timely manner."

Ada said the survey is an essential step in the land registration process, and necessary in order for the government to tax and develop utility infrastructure on lands already leased out to applicants.

The senator added that current law prohibits the CLTC from leasing unregistered lands and that, despite that prohibition, many CLTC applicants inhabit unregistered lands. Such unregistered lands cannot be taxed and suffer restrictions in obtaining basic utility connections.

The estimated cost for the proposed five-year survey project is $350,000 annually, which is to be sourced from the CLTC Commercial Lease/License Fund.

According to the language of the bill, that $350,000 annual expenditure is to be sourced specifically from the annual lease payment made by TeleGuam Holdings LLC.

Michael Borja, director of the Department of Land Management and CLTC administrative secretary, told The Guam Daily Post the $350,000 that would be appropriated by Ada's bill would account for less than half of CLTC's total annual collections. He added that those funds would not be "redirected" from any other project or source because CLTC's Commercial Lease/License Fund is currently sitting idle.

Borja said CLTC had actually asked the Guam Legislature to have those funds appropriated in their last two budget cycles, and that the governor had actually signed off on the appropriations, but that lawmakers removed them from their final budget each time. Borja said the fund is supposed to go toward CLTC's operational costs.

Borja explained that the task of surveying the different plots and parcels of land is an immensely cumbersome task for an individual surveyor. That task can be made even more difficult, he added, when it is being done by several different private surveyors working independently and not sharing all their gathered information with anyone other than their respective clients.

By appropriating the funds for CLTC to contract a number different surveyors to carry out land surveys under the direction of DLM, Borja said the entire process would be accelerated and, more importantly, the final leases the department produces would be accurate and bona fide legal documents.

To all those who already have lease agreements for CLTC land and who privately paid to have surveys done, Borja said Guam law already accounted for that eventuality and noted that those who paid for surveys on their own were granted a 7-year property tax exemption. Anyone who enters into a lease agreement for land surveyed through funds appropriated from the government's coffers do not qualify for that exemption.

In order for the different surveyors contracted under the provisions of Bill 47 to carry out their task in an organized manner, language in the measure calls for the hiring of no more than two individuals on a limited-term appointment.

CLTC will be tasked to hire two engineering technicians or engineering aides to "assist in contract monitoring and map processing to ensure surveys are performed according to (DLM specifications)."

Borja said the total cost of both positions would amount to about $91,000 annually. The job requires going out with the surveyors to ensure the smooth and accurate collection of survey data and digitizing it for DLM's maps and records.

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