Gov. Abercrombie's initiative to generate revenues through the Public Land Development Corp. has pretty much petered out, now that he's punted the controversy back to the Legislature, which is going through its own shift as one good old boy — Joe Souki — replaces another — Calvin Say — as Speaker of the House.
I hope the Kauai folks who are up in arms — quite rightly — about the PLDC will remain involved in land use issues. We could have used their voices as North Shore public beaches were privatized by corporate-owned vacation rentals and lavish shoreline plantings, ag lands became gentleman's estates, burials were capped with concrete, accesses were closed. Seems like a lot of people are fixated on finding "the next Superferry," the next chance to demonstrate, while missing the critical skirmishes that are happening day-to-day.
Which takes us to Papaa Bay, a lovely little stretch of shoreline that used to be a lot prettier — and a lot more accessible — before movie executive Peter Guber built an 18,000-square-foot mansion way too close to the beach, then set about keeping people away, as I reported for Honolulu Magazine back in 2004.
The dispute over access erupted in December 2003, when more than 100 citizens — including Hawaiians trying to exercise their PASH rights — were met by at least 15 cops at the gate on Papaa Road. Four people were arrested. (Former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka had tried to get the Council to sell Guber that end bit of road in 2001.)
The county took the access issue to court, claiming it owned the roadway that connected Papaa Road to the beach. But a federal judge found in Guber's favor.
In 2009, Guber, who had bought the 174-acre property for $7.5 million in 1998, sold it for $28 million cash.
Now Councilman Tim Bynum has introduced a resolution calling upon the county's Public Access, Open Space, and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission “to pursue obtaining a safe and adequate public access route to Pãpa’a Bay.” It directs the Commission to “look into all avenues for obtaining this public access, including the use of eminent domain proceedings.”
Currently, there is access to Papaa Bay from the south, though it requires a good bit of rock-hopping.
In an email, Tim explained why he thinks the timing is right:
I have followed this matter for years and am moving now because we passed legislation that make it clear that the Access Open Space Commission can work on access issues. Also the current leadership at the Planning Department is supportive of the Commission and the County under the current County Attorney has shown its willingness to use eminent domain proceedings when it is in the community's best interest.
Tim also noted that the Commission is pursuing an access to Kauapea Beach access from the lighthouse side and working on condemning an access easement in Poipu. "I believe this Commission is poised to really make a difference and this is the beginning of my efforts working with the Commission on a lot of access issues," he wrote.
Tim and Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura also have introduced a bill that increases the annual contribution to the access fund from one-half of one percent of real property tax revenue to 1.5 percent each year.
Both the Papaa Bay resolution and the bill to increase contributions to the access fund are set for Wednesday's Council meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. You can submit testimony in person or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.