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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 6, 2001

City moving to condemn Tantalus property

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

The City Council is moving to condemn the Tantalus property of a man whom the city blames for the collapse of a stretch of Round Top Drive last year.

Last September, officials closed a section of the 2800 block of the city road after the shoulder crumbled. The city spent about $400,000 on repairs, signs and hiring off-duty police officers to divert traffic from the damage.

At the time, city Managing Director Ben Lee said the road collapsed because of excavation work done on a house just below the road. The owner of the house, architect Jo Paul Rognstad, told the city that the wall was old and collapsed on its own, Lee said.

Yesterday, the Council Parks and Public Works Committee recommended approval of the first step toward condemning the 10,017-foot property at 2845 Round Top Drive, which sets it for final adoption by the full council on Oct. 17.

Rognstad did not attend the meeting and could not be reached to comment.

Jerry Iwata of the city Department of Design and Construction said the condemnation is needed to safeguard a retaining wall to protect the roadway. Facilities Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said the city believes that the action is needed "to protect the roadway and the safe passage of people."

Councilman Gary Okino asked why Rognstad isn't held liable for paying for the road repairs. Iwata said Rognstad did not respond to requests to pay for the work and the city has gone to court to seek reimbursement.

City official Melvin Lee said Rognstad owns two parcels there and the city is recommending condemnation of the smaller property and knocking down the new construction.

Iwata said the assessed value of the property and building is between $400,000 and $450,000. He also said there are tax liens against the property.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadveriser.com or 525-8070.