The rain returns to replenish the earth, the full moon returns to illuminate our shadows, Valentine's Day returns to open our hearts and this post returns to previous topics to bring them up-to-date.
First, Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff says his organization and Center for Food Safety still fully intend to provide pro bono legal services to fight the chem corps lawsuit. But rather than represent the County, which is being sued over Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, they plan to seek intervenor status on behalf on an unnamed community group(s).
Paul says they will be seeking to intervene and he thinks there's “more than a 50-50 chance” the court will let them in. If it does, he says, “our role will be identical” to the one played by the attorneys representing the county. Except they'll have different clients, and he wouldn't elaborate on how the interests of those clients might differ.
Speaking of Center for Food Safety, they have a new video out that features Councilman Gary Hooser along with Vandana Shiva, attorney Andrew Kimbrell and Hawaii Seed President Jeri Di Pietro making her usual outrageous claims:
“There's an epidemic of cancer, leukemias, obesity, asthma and there's more of these diseases in people living near these chemical crops.”
I guess Jeri missed the report from the Hawaii Tumor Registry that found “there is no evidence of higher incidence of cancer on the island of Kaua‘i overall or for specific geographic regions of the island, as compared to the state of Hawaii,” except on the north shore, where there was more skin cancer among haoles.
Which is why I couldn't agree more when I read these words in Dylan Hooser's letter to the editor today:
We should be debating the facts and the issues.
Yes. It's only too bad we didn't start there, instead of passing a bill driven by ego, innuendo, bullying, speculation, hyperbole, hysteria and the fanned flames of fear. And as the CFS video makes clear, those tactics are still being used by at least one of the entities that wants to defend some of our citizens, but not our whole county, in court.
Defeated Prosecutor and former Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri appears poised to re-enter the political arena. She attended Wednesday's Council meeting, where she made a multi-minute rant against the county attorney's request for $500,000 to refill the Special Counsel account. It was followed by this pronouncement:
I will be here hopefully almost every week to bring forth these deficiencies.
While the County Attorney's office has plenty to ding, it rings a bit hollow to hear a woman who has personally cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and settlements rail against escalating legal costs.
And finally, following several complaints, the county issued a cease and desist order on the Wainiha house that was being systematically dismantled under a $45,200 building permit for an “unsubstantial improvement," as detailed in a Jan. 31 post.
After the shut down, I got a call first from the contractor, Jeff O'Hara, and then from the architect, Adam Brown, both of whom wanted to say the owners — a young family from New Jersey — are nice people who were not trying to skirt the flood law, had no intention of turning the house into an illegal vacation and truly did want to preserve the adorable modest surf shack they'd purchased.
Adam said he had done everything “by the book," it took nearly a year to get the building permit for the remodel approved and the contractor was never authorized to take down as much of the structure as he did. Jeff admitted he got carried away when he saw the termite damage, but thought he had verbal approval from the building division to remove walls.
Adam has now gotten a permit to demolish the home, and the owners are deciding what's next. In the meantime, Adam wanted to share his perspective with readers, especially those who currently own the classic beach cottages and plantation-style houses sitting at grade in the flood zone:
Many people see the non substantial improvement rules as a way to increase home size, county cheating, etc. The reality is the non substantial improvement laws are an attempt at systematic removal of Pre Firm homes in the flood zones. Don't forget that. FEMA does not want these homes in the flood zone. The new Biggert Waters Reform Act of 2012 rules coming into effect will substantially raise insurance rates for those homes that are Pre Firm Flood Zone homes. No longer will government subsidize the insurance.
A home in this category can only have a maximum of 50% (40% if you don't want to itemize contractor bids) of its value used to repair it every ten years. The lowered valuations by the county makes the reality of fixing a damaged home difficult. If you notice the costs that must be included in the calculation are almost everything structural, as well as superficial. As we discussed, the county uses a higher rate to assess value to repairs past the Hanalei Bridge. Elevated rates, coupled with lowered assessed tax values makes it more difficult to restore these homes. I don't just mean the off islanders, this applies to everyone who lives here in an on grade home in a flood zone and wants a permit to fix it.
It is very important that people that own these homes, and want them to stay here and the life it represents, maintain the homes carefully and use these rules to their benefit. They should be making permitted repairs to correct their homes every ten years, if their home needs correction. Some are using the rules to maintain size, density and local character but the government is using the rules to remove the homes entirely. Once they are gone, they are never coming back and that time will be sooner than anyone realizes.