Monday, April 15, 2013

Musings: Abuse Chronicles 12

It's unclear how Banana Beach House got its name, considering the real name of that particular stretch of sand is Naue, and bananas are decidedly absent. It's also unclear how it got its vacation rental certificate, considering it failed to provide the required documentation. But when your company name is B&S Beach Club, it's apparently easy to fudge facts — and steal the public beach while you're at it.

Because this is a story not just about a questionable TVR, but the blatant theft of our public beach. Not just any beach, mind you, but the one that served as the basis for Diamond vs State of Hawaii — the landmark Hawaii Supreme Court decision that determined the public shoreline extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves.

Here's how that coastline looked in 2000, before the Banana Beach blight struck. See how beautifully broad and open it is?
Here's how it looks now, with the beach eroding away beneath a wall of cultivated vegetation that armors the shoreline.

During the years in between, a big house got built ,and millions of dollars were made. Here's how it happened:

C.R. Stephens LLC bought the lot for $775,000 in December 1999. It's right next door to the lot where Joe Brescia built his first house, which also had burials, just like his second one. This lot contains burials, too, but that didn't stop the owner from sending in a crew with a backhoe to take out the all trees.

Then they started planting on the beach: naupaka, spider lilies, coconut palms.

This prompted then-state land manager Sam Lee to send Stephens a letter advising him that an inspection had discovered “unauthorized landscaping” in the form of newly planted vegetation and watering implements.

But the letter was not followed with any sort of enforcement, so the planting continued. In July 2003, Stephens applied for a $889,000 building permit to construct a 3,212-square-foot single family residence. The state surveyor used the newly planted vegetation to set the shoreline, which is the starting line for the building setback. Caren Diamond, knowing the vegetation was planted and the waves washed much further makai, filed suit to challenge the state's use of vegetation to establish the shoreline.

In September 2004, as the lawsuit was moving through the courts, the county issued Stephens a building permit. The following month, the planning commission amended Condition #9 of the permit to state “No construction until the Hawaii Supreme Court renders its decision.”

In May 2005, Stephens sold the still vacant lot to B&S Beach Club — a group of San Diego investors who play Monopoly with Kauai properties (see Abuse Chronicles 10). He was paid $1.8 million, more than doubling his money. The Club's agent, Matt Hunter, trotted right down to the county and re-opened Stephens' building permit. Construction began immediately. The house was completed in December 2006 — seven weeks after the high court ruled in favor of Diamond. So much for adhering to Condition #9.

Meanwhile, B&S continued to intensively plant the beach, and irrigate it, too, with the assistance of landscaper Mark Soppeland.

On April 15, 2008, B&S applied for the county's very first vacation rental certificate. The application included none of the required documentation to prove prior TVR use or general excise and transient accommodation tax payment.

Yet in August 2008, the county issued the TVR certificate. The next month B&S sold the property for $5 million to AK DACHA LLC, a foreign limited liability corporation that lists a San Diego address. Neal Norman was the Realtor.  Matt Hunter is still listed as the agent.

The house, which is advertised to sleep 10-12, was clearly never intended to be a single family residence as was presented to the Planning Commission during the design review process. But to build a resort, which it is, would have required a different type of permit, one it likely could never have gotten under the county Special Management Area (SMA) requirements that stemmed from a 1982 Supreme Court ruling, Mahuiki vs Planning Commission. The SMA conditions determined only residential uses were allowed in that particular subdivision. So much for SMA conditions.

In May 2010, AK DACHA applied for a permit to remodel, enclose and enlarge the two-car garage by 325 square feet. The county's shoreline planner sent the request to the Department of Health, which stated the expansion would not maintain the required setback from the honkin' big septic system, so she required a current certified shoreline.
Building inspector Mario Antonio noted the property was a coastal high hazard area and ordered an elevation certificate to be done upon completion of work

A month later, the county allowed Matt Hunter to reopen an old building permit and somehow skirt the elevation and shoreline requirements. Final building approval was granted in December 2010, with real property records showing a basement area of 1,248 feet. By then, however, the diligent shoreline planner was no longer working at the county, and no mention was made of the septic setback.

The TVR certificate was not renewed in 2011, at which time the use should have been considered abandoned. Under the county zoning ordinance, any non-conforming use that ceases for a year is no longer valid. However, the planning department inexplicably processed the 2012 renewal as if there had been no break.

And so it continues today, with advertisements boldly touting the house, which rents for $1,500 a night, as "on the sand." Indeed it is. In fact, you can see from the dead fish in the plant roots and debris line left on the lawn by the highest wash of the waves that the yard of Banana Beach House has encroached onto the public beach by at least 40 feet, making it hard to walk the shoreline, even when the surf isn't big. 
But then, exclusion is exactly the intent of those who steal and privatize the public beach for the benefit of their private resorts.


DWard said...

Mahalo, Joan,
Exactly the same kind of encroachment is happening at the Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii Island, and in many other places, as well. The naupaka plantings there are fifteen feet thick, and the public is forced to walk in the wash of the waves to get around the tended vegetation that fronts expensive homes.

Anonymous said...

The pictures say it All! There is no end to the ways Kauai can be exploited and with help from Kauaians, not just the county employees but the realtors, contractors, landscapers who are only too happy to do anything for a buck!
Shame on you for perpetuating the rape of our island and beaches.

Thank you Joan, and Caren, and the others who have dedicated so much to uncover these abuses.

Anonymous said...

Another sad but true story.

And yet another example of no coordination between departments and the County's piss poor permitting process, ones that were suppose to be improved with this administration's election many years ago?

Anonymous said...

These fraudsters need to be put in jail. We should be able to take back the beach since it is public property. The house should be removed or demolished.

Anonymous said...

Mahalo e Joan!

Anonymous said...

The corrupt on Kauai will take what they want against their own people, raping the land and human life.

Chief Perry is all out in the open about supporting one of the most unscrupulous prosecutors on the face of the earth, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.

I guess we now know how ethical the chief of police probably is. Keep it local. Too bad for Kauai.

Anonymous said...

To my cousin Chief Perry...


Anonymous said...

Those who signed the permits are the ones that should be gone after - they ALLOWED this to happen.

Seriously 12 - 14 people in a single family residence?

Anonymous said...

Prosecute the county employees, contractors, realtors and this will end. I hope something comes from this. Good job Joan

Anonymous said...

Debt of gratitude to you and Caren for documenting this abuse and disclosing it publicly. Mahalo also for doing a show about it on KKCR. I really do hope for action by the County. I think there should be accountability for the former Planning Director and his Deputy, at the least termination from their current cushy County jobs. Disciplinary action for all employees who failed to do their job and resulted in the negligence you uncovered. The fraudulent actions of the realtors/agents involved in these unscrupulous transactions should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Mahalo again Joan for bringing all of this fraud out into the open. As citizens, we need to keep the pressure on our public officials to take action. We can't let this be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

those employees(not the appointed ones) are civil servants - nothing is going to happen to them.

Anonymous said...

WTF does Chief Perry have to do with TVRs?

Anonymous said...

Civil servant doesn't mean you can get away with failure to do your job or negligence. There is a disciplinary process in place. Verbal warning, written warning, suspension, termination, depending on the nature and severity of the offense. Problem is managers are too lazy to go through the process of documentation and grievance. But if pressure is coming from all fronts (OPA, Council, Public)the Administration will be forced to act. This is where public pressure needs to be relentless.

Anonymous said...

So if no one, their supervisors, ever document a violation of their employment, nothing will happen.

How many ethics violations have resulted in disaplinary action? None.

They are safe. No one is going to do anything. Pressure from the public, please.

Anonymous said...

I understand you folk hate chemicals, but roundup will take that naupaka out in a real hurry. Spray it on at 20% or so (buy the cheap version that takes longer to kill). Come back in 2-3 and nail another section. In no time flat it will all be dead and gone.

Anonymous said...

That is a huge ass septic tank put in the sand . Despoiling the amazing ocean there that use to be clean. Now we can swim in vacation rental effluent after big rains. Sick stuff here you are exposing.
Wonder how much the property would have been worth if they had not stolen the beach and got a permit to make a motel?

Auntie Maria said...

From today's paper -- Joan, you've gotten the Council's attention!!

Council Chair Jay Furfaro said he would post a meeting on May 8 exclusively to address TVR violations, and that Kollar and Dahilig would be required to attend it.

Anonymous said...

with the timeline in the paper - then Dahilig is responsible for bringing in Mike Laureta to do the dirty TVR work (poorly as has been documented by Joan) and if all of the documents were not in order - why were the permits processed in the first place...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
WTF does Chief Perry have to do with TVRs?

April 15, 2013 at 9:58 PM

Everyone's just out for himself.

Anonymous said...

Great story in TGI on Joan's Cronicles of Abuse.

Joan, Dihlig is using your investigative reporting to "investigate."

Hire Joan for the position the County Council and Dihlig say they want to create.

Mel says what he would do to investigate like he's not the fired KPD cop he is. He got where he is today because of his name alone. Shayme, Mel and Chief Perry, the 3 Musketeers.

Thanks to Joan, maybe some real progress can be made around TVR regulations.

Anonymous said...

Laureta the son of a former Judge, so now you people are starting to open your eyes and connect the dots of the evil and corrupt people on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Benjamin Franklin

Mr. Dahilig, please stand up to your responsibilities in this permitting process.

Anonymous said...

Its clear that ocean front homeowners want to hold on to their private/landscaped yards regardless of what has to be done to maintain them. The ocean will continue to erode this area away until the day when my children won't have a beach to enjoy. Is removing the vegetation and allowing the annually progressing high water mark to dictate what's public and what's private the answer?