Chilly temps and more blessed rain ushered in the dawn, and when the golden light appeared, two fat waterfalls could be seen streaking down the face of Makaleha. Now the wind is picking up, sending clouds on the fly and causing the ironwoods to murmur messages that are music to my ears.
Up on the North Shore, the murmur is all about the body found at Lumahai yesterday. Seems it's the same spot where one of the region's very bad boys was tied to a tree and brutally beaten about a month ago. Maybe a coincidence — or maybe not. Lumahai Beach is a notorious ice scene.
Then there's the sad news about that new shopping center being approved in Kilauea. But it's really no surprise. Since the ag lands around town have been turned over to vacation rentals, the guests need someplace to shop. How much ya wanna bet the shops that end up there will be catering to tourists, rather than the residents it's supposedly being built to serve? And as always, there's attorney Lorna Nishimitsu, shilling for the developers and even arguing against construction traffic relief.
And it seems the tanker that spilled its load on Kokee Road was heading up to refuel the helicopters that are trying to extinguish the fire, which is spreading really fast and is suspected to have been started by arsonists. Some Kokee residents were advised this morning to evacuate their homes.
Meanwhile, I've heard the governor has appointed a businessman as Kauai's interim representative on the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. Apparently, the selection committee didn't like any of the folks who had applied for the seat just vacated by Ron Agor. Still trying to confirm who the interim appointee is, but rumor is it's Avery Youn, architect and, ahem, “expeditor.”
I had a chance to converse with planning director Mike Dahilig today, via email and phone, about the Hanalei Plantation Resort access issue I've been covering. He dispelled the rumor left in comments yesterday, that he had flown on the county dime to meet with Ohana Real Estate Investors, the firm owned by billionaire Pierre Omidyar that wants to develop a super luxe resort on the site.
“I do not make County travel arrangements to Honolulu to meet with applicants seeking departmental or commission approval on permit applications,” he wrote in an email. “They come to us.”
That's good. Not so good is the reality that the county doesn't really have it together when it comes to monitoring or enforcing beach accesses. It seems that different departments — planning, public works and parks — all hold easements, and they're all different types of agreements, with varying rights and responsibilities.
“We need to establish protocols in house,” Mike acknowledged, so that there's consistency in how enforcements are handled.
To move against a landowner who is blocking an easement, the county would have to pursue legal action to have the courts compel the owner to live up to the terms of the agreement. It's a slow process.
But with the new civil fine authority, the county could also impose fines of up to $10,000 per day. Which is not a lot when you're a billionaire like Omidyar, but still, it's something. And as Mike said, it would provide more immediate relief. However, the county hasn't yet explored using that authority to enforce accesses.
In the meantime, Mike did say he will be contacting the landowner's agents on island; Max Graham — oh, what a surprise — is the attorney. Mike said he also will send a letter to the commander of the Hanalei substation advising him the access should be left open and no one should be getting arrested for trespassing if they use it.
Thanks, Mike. I know I never would have gotten a response like that from Ian Costa.
I also spoke with Michelle Swartman, the landowner's PR person on Kauai, and she flat out denied the easement had ever been closed. Until I pressed her by repeating her words, and then she said, "What I'm saying is, from the time that I've been involved with the project that property has always been accessible.”
And then went round and round about what exactly that meant, with her speaking all the while in a voice and tone that was somewhere between timeshare saleswoman and Stepford wife.
She said she could not understand how in the world the community had gotten the perception the access had been closed. Mmmm, maybe it was the lock and the no trespass sign?
When I asked why, if the access was now and always had been open, Lance Laney had been threatened with trespass, and then having his car towed, she claimed total ignorance of how either of those events transpired. “Nothing is any different,” she claimed.