Sunday, April 13, 2014

PLANT YOUR CLEAN-HANDS MANSION HERE

PLANT YOUR CLEAN-HANDS MANSION HERE: An article by investigative reporter Rob Perez in today's pay-walled Honolulu Star-Bulletin points in many ways to what's going on in the Kapa`a-Kealia-Anahola-Waipake-Lepa`uli (Larsen's)-Kilauea corridor on Kaua`i as it relates to the development of mansions-for-the-rich in agricultural subdivisions and "condominiumized" ag lands by Larry Bowman's Falco Partners as well as developers Jeff Lindner, Tom McCloskey and other more silent ag land owners.


Indications are that they are using "new and improved" combinations of loopholes, such as some being used in Kunia on O`ahu to build more "gentleman's estates."


Though the prime methods of building secret mansions that Perez pointed to have become more and more difficult to hide on Kaua`i recently, the dodgy nature surrounding the layers of state and county regulations, many containing built-in exemptions, are spurring a new generation of agricultural land development devised by land use attorneys who have worked hard to create the confusion and loopholes in the first place.


Though of course the destruction of the bank of agricultural lands through the building of luxury homes is nothing new, especially on Kaua`i, recently we've seen ads soliciting people to farm relatively minuscule plots of the lands apparently, our sources say, so that they can sell multi-million dollar mansions on the lion's share of the land, as indicated by recent announcements of the availability of small farming plots in the area.


The way it apparently works is that they divide up huge plots of land for McMansions for wealthy mainlanders then segregate a very small portion of land as far away from the estates as possible and find people to farm it, often soliciting for "organic" farms so as to distract and placate the members of the "sustainability" movement.


While the article seems to indicate our planning director Mike Dahilig- misidentified in the article as Vahilig- convinced Perez essentially that "there's nothing to see here- go back to your cramped apartments and clapboard homes," it appears that either Dahilig is narrowing his pish-poshing to the one 2012 loophole primarily cited in the article.


That or that perhaps Falco and the others have used teams of skilled attorneys to put together packages of loopholes to put up their multi-million-dollar "farm dwellings" while minimally fulfilling their obligation to do some actual farming beyond the current practice of putting in a few fruit trees or grazing a couple of horses or the like.


Although the specifics of the Kunia situation is different, many of the surrounding principles and loopholes are being applied here. The challenges of lack of access to the lands for inspectors is one that is compounded on Kaua`i by our complaint-driven system of inspections and lack of inspectors- in addition to notorious corruption in the buildings division.


That has meant that if you don't apply for a permit and no one can see the house and no one complains... well you get the picture.


That cat and mouse game- with plenty of cheese and kibble spread around for everyone involved- has worked well in the past. But with GPS and drone surveillance (and maybe inspectors willing to sneak onto the land and look for more than rice-cookers) it's going to be harder and harder to get away with "farm dwellings" that are essential "secret mansions."


We admit to seeing lots of external signs and not really being able to connect all the dots... yet. But it's worth a mention today because there are enough of them to start forming a definite picture of the final nail in the coffin of a sustainable small farm future for Kaua`i- one that makes the out-front chemical company plans to "seed" the end of clean environmentally-responsible farming seem half-assed.


We'll be following this story in the near future. Don't fail to contact us gotwindmills (at) gmail.com if you have any "inside" information.


Here's an excerpt from Perez's article.


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A building concern; Kunia farm structures may be prohibited homes


By Rob Perez


At least 10 structures that look like houses have been built on leased farmland in Kunia without the normal inspections that come with most construction projects and despite a state law prohibiting homes on such land.


One of the biggest buildings apparently is a Buddhist temple. Several other structures have second-floor windows and balconies offering sweeping ocean views features not typically found in barns or storage sheds.


The ability of owners to erect such structures free of normal regulatory oversight and in a remote agricultural subdivision unconnected to power, water, telephone and sewer lines has exposed a gap in the code enforcement system on Oahu and generated concern among some in the farming industry.
Even though a complaint was filed with the city in June alleging that unauthorized residences some with up to four bedrooms had been built at Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands, the city took no action on that issue.


Because of a 2012 state law that exempts certain structures from building permit requirements, the city did not have the authority to enter the Kunia Loa structures, and without being able to do so, was unable to prove that they were being used as residences even if they looked like houses from the outside, according to a spokesman for the city Department of Planning and Permitting, the agency that issues building permits and investigates complaints.


The department did cite four lessees for violating an ordinance prohibiting the storing of industrial equipment on agricultural land. The equipment was seen when an inspector went to the subdivision to investigate the complaint.


The 2012 exemption law, widely supported by the agriculture industry, was designed to free farmers and ranchers from the time-consuming, costly process of obtaining building permits for small agricultural-related buildings, such as tool sheds. The idea behind the law versions of which are found in the majority of other states was to help farmers and ranchers better compete with imported food suppliers.


The permit exemption applies only to nonresidential structures constructed on commercial farms or ranches as long as certain conditions are met, such as the floor space is no more than 1,000 square feet, the land is outside the urban district, and the building is essential to the agricultural operation.
But the law has created some confusion and enforcement challenges.


Even if permitting department officials suspect a residential dwelling has been constructed on farmland by an owner claiming the exemption, they say they lack the authority to enter the structure to prove it.
"Enforcing building and zoning laws on agricultural land is difficult enough, but exempting certain structures from the building permit process makes it even more difficult and frustrating because the building permit is our enforcement tool," DPP Deputy Director Art Challacombe said in a written statement to the Star-Advertiser.


The law has prompted some property owners on Kauai to try to sneak proposed dwellings through the review process by calling them something other than a residence.


"People are trying to disguise houses as packing facilities," said Mike Vahilig, Kauai's planning director, estimating his office has seen five to 10 such cases over the past year.


In attempting the ruse, garagelike space has been labeled as packing floors, bedrooms as offices, and the kitchen as something else, Vahilig said.


Even though the property owners claimed the exemption, the county was able to block the proposed projects by denying a zoning permit, a separate approval needed before construction can start, according to Vahilig.


If Kauai didn't have that separate process, the owners would have been able to build the homes, he added....

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DENIAL AIN'T JUST A SCREAM IN EWA

DENIAL AIN'T JUST A SCREAM IN EWA: Just as Nixon felt the need to tell the country he was "not a crook" and 2010 Delaware US Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell just couldn't resist insisting that "I am not a witch," our own hate and fear-mongering homophobe-in-chief Hawai`i Republican State Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) has declared "I'm not perverse," according to today's Honolulu Star Advertiser.


McDermott's infamous crusade against marriage equality last year continued into this year's legislative session when he attempted to whip up fellow Christian zealots into a orgasmic religious frenzy over the state's sex education curriculum called "Pono Choices."


The house refused to pass his amendment to a state DOE bill after "McDermott and others... complained that Pono Choices, a pilot sex education program for middle-schoolers, classifies the anus as genitalia and minimizes the dangers associated with anal sex" according to capitol reporter Derrick DePledge.


This led Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Moiliili-Makiki-Tantalus), chairwoman of the House Health Committee to quip "'I think the level of specificity in this amendment that seems to focus perversely on these very specific sex acts misses the point' of teaching broad health education."


In response and in true American Knucklehead fashion, McDermott provided political satirists one of those "can't improve on that" moments.


DePledge writes that "McDermott jumped in to defend himself. 'My amendment, which is a reflection of me, is being called perverse," he said. "I'm not perverse; Pono Choices is perverse. That's what this is all about. I take that as an insult, and I ask the lady to withdraw it."


Forget the gauntlet slap. Perhaps if McDermott decides to run for re-election this fall he could do worse than to campaign walking the streets of Ewa Beach decked in leather and one of those ball-gags while bedecked in a statement-making back-door chastity belt.


After all, he couldn't possibly present a more ludicrous and preposterous image of himself than he has already.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

(PNN) CANDIDATES ABOUND; SOME BIG NAME, SOME PERENNIAL CHALLENGERS 'PULL PAPERS,' FEW FILE

(PNN) -- While current Kaua`i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has already flied papers to run for another four-year term only one incumbent Councilmember, Mel Rapozo, has officially thrown his hat into the ring for another two years, according to the Friday's latest list of candidates.

Carvalho's potential opponents include minor and perennial candidates. Three out of the four listed have "pulled papers" but only one, Debralynn M Desilva Carveiro, has filed to oppose him.


But the list of 11 potential council candidates includes repeated after-ran, former Councilmember Kipukai Kuali`i who has filed to run after again failing to be elected in 2012 after being appointed to fill a vacancy, along with some other notable names and, perhaps, another former councilmember.


We say "perhaps" because among the names on this list is one "KANESHIRO, ARRYL J" a moniker suspiciously similar to that of long time Councilmember Darryl J Kaneshiro who lost a bid for reelection in the '00's, was appointed back onto the council when there was a vacancy, won re-election again and then retired in 2010.

(Correction: Arryl Kaneshiro is Darryl's son and works for Mike Tressler and Grove Farm.  That's what you get for writing on Sunday.)

Kuali`i also quite boisterously attempted to be appointed once again last year when a vacancy on the council opened up, claiming his eighth place finish in the 2012 election should have held sway even though no such qualification for appointment exists.


If all 11 filed it would supersede total number who ran for council in 2012 when only nine sought a seat. Some observers think that this year's total could top the record of 19 that ran one year in the 90's. The council has seven at-large members.


The list of those who have drawn a petition to run- a practice referred to as "pulling papers"- is eyeopening, for the inclusion of current Police Chief Darryl Perry with whom the mayor has feuded over who has the power to discipline the chief- the mayor or the police commission.


The Kaua`i County Charter gives the commission the power to hire and fire the chief but reserves disciplinary power over department heads to the mayor.


Currently the police commission is suing over the matter after the mayor suspended Perry last year over reported charges that Perry attempted to dissuade a female officer from filing sexual harassment charges against one of Perry's deputy chiefs- a charge civil rights law see as tantamount to sexual harassment itself.


While the list of council seat-seekers includes three new faces who have filed- Arthur Brun, Ronald Horoshko and Ernest Kanekoa, Jr- it also contains perennial candidate and Republican stalwart Joanne Georgi, Kaua`i police officer and legacy Joseph Kaauwai Jr who will try again for a council slot and the only other incumbent to pull papers, JoAnn Yukimura.


In the legislature, while all three incumbents have pulled papers and may face opposition if those who have pulled papers actually file, none of the current office holders have flied. The only one to actually file is Republican Steven Yoder who will no doubt prove to be an also-ran against Jimmy Tokioka.


Tokioka, who was originally appointed to his house seat, is expected to face his first-ever real opposition from legacy Dylan Hooser who has announced he will run but hasn't, as yer pulled papers. Hooser is the son of former State Senate Majority Leader and current Kaua`i Councilmember Gary Hooser.


The list of candidates who have pulled papers for governor includes 11 people (non-partisan Khistina C. Dejean, has filed) for US Senator seven names (Republican Harry Joseph Friel, Jr., has filed) and for 2nd U.S. Congressional District, three (Libertarian Joseph William Kent has filed).


The deadline to file to run for office is Tuesday June 3rd at 4:30 p.m. Candidates can pick up papers at the Historic County Building in Lihu`e. The deadline to register to vote in the August 9th Primary Election is July 10th. The deadline to register for the November 4th General Election is August 2nd.

Friday, April 4, 2014

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, DOWN THE DRAIN

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, DOWN THE DRAIN: Once again a land use ruling by Kaua`i 5th Circuit "junior" Judge, Katherine Watanabe who never met a claim of vested rights she didn't like- or a developer whose claims to have a right to do anything they damned-well please for that matter- has been overturned by the Supreme Court, at great time and expense for one of the few public interest law firms around.


According to a press release from Earthjustice


The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court recently issued another landmark decision on water resources and the public trust. The case, Kauai Springs v. Kauai Planning Commission, involved a company bottling and selling spring water on the island of Kauaʻi.


The court’s opinion strongly reinforced principles that water is a public trust, and that private companies profiting off these resources bear the burden of justifying their diversions and showing the resources will not be jeopardized...


The court’s decision is its latest statement on the public trust doctrine, the legal principle that the government holds water resources in trust for certain presumptively favored “trust purposes” including resource protection. This case builds on the court’s historic precedent in 2000 in the Waiāhole case, where Native Hawaiian and rural communities represented by Earthjustice successfully compelled the restoration of stream flows diverted by former plantation companies.


Some highlights from the court’s latest ruling include:


  • Contrary to the company’s claims of “grandfathered” diversions, “no person or entity has automatic vested rights to water.”
  • Private commercial users of water bear the burden of affirmatively justifying their uses. “[A] lack of information from the applicant is exactly the reason an agency is empowered to deny a proposed use of a public trust resource.”
  • This burden includes showing the use is reasonable and beneficial and consistent with trust purposes, has no practicable alternative water source, and implements mitigation of the cumulative impact of diversions.
  • Government agencies have “duties under the public trust independent of the permit requirements,” including a duty to hold private commercial users to their burden under the public trust...


(This case began in 2006 when the Planning Commission of Kauaʻi County cited the bottling company for unlawfully operating without required land use permits. Left with unresolved questions whether the diversion and sale of water was permissible, the commission denied the request for after-the-fact permits. On appeal, the lower court reversed and ordered the permits issued. The intermediate appeals court rescinded the permits, but sent the case back for more hearings. Finally, the supreme court ruled that the commission was justified in denying the permits without better information.)


Watenabe seems capable of bizarre rulings that fly in the face of Hawai`i State Supreme Court decisions in including this one which was based on the far-reaching Waiaholewater case that determined that water to be a constitutional public trust.


In addition, apparently even the broad "smart growth" concept that says that the local community should determine growth is an alien concept to Watenabe. She's made "give-backs"- things like roads parks and other amenities demanded by our local planning commission in exchange for development rights- all but impossible to attach to development approvals without some strict yet nebulous almost unattainable concept of a "direct nexus" being applied, as in the case of struck-down attempts to make the resort developers of that monstrosity right across from Safeway help to alleviate the traffic nightmare they helped create.


How many overturns does it take to unscrew a judge from her seat after her 10 year term is up? Many hope she's over her limit.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RIDE A PAINTED PONY LET THE SPINNIN' WHEEL TURN

RIDE A PAINTED PONY LET THE SPINNIN' WHEEL TURN: I'm sure, as everyone says, Gerry Charle­­bois- the pilot of the ultra-light aircraft that crashed and burned in Polihale last month killing him and his passenger- was a great guy.

But these ultra-light "tours" are illegal as hell because they are not really "flight instruction" as they claim but simply thrill rides for tourists. And everyone know it.

Taking visitors up in these things is not permitted but there is a "flight instruction" loophole that has allowed the practice to continue.

It's one of those "and if anyone asks, you're learning to fly," dealies.

Of course not one news report has mentioned this- heaven forbid they should criticize anything to do with the visitor industry.


According to a local Kaua`i newspaper article:


The accident pilot had recently had problems with the fuel system suctioning the fuel supply out of the main vent line (located in the belly of the aircraft),” states a preliminary investigation report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
In an effort to fix the issue, Charlebois reportedly routed the fuel vent line up through the aircraft’s mast.


With all due respect to the pilot- with whom we apparently shared many friends-, it pains us to say that it sounds like the NTSB is saying that he "Gerry-rigged" the gas line so he could make money that day.


It's now six people who have died just on Kaua`i since 2011 in these ultra light "flight instruction" exhilaration excursions. Isn't it time to close this deadly loophole?

Monday, March 31, 2014

TELLING US WHERE TO GO

TELLING US WHERE TO GO: Take a gander at this bizarrely ill-informed rant some editorial writer for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser decided to pen about Kaua`i today under a pay-walled "Off the News" banner....


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Wider highway should ease nerves on Kauai


Anyone who’s been to the Garden Island lately must have been nodding knowingly at the headline, “Kauai is Hawaii’s fastest growing county, census finds.” And for those who’ve experienced the traffic slog between Kapaa and Lihue, those nods turned to shakes of the head.


Kauai’s population rose 1.6 percent between July 2012 and July 2013. While the actual number seems small — 1,117 more people — that growth trend, alas, has created congestion that at times seems worse than Oahu’s rush hour. It’s not just the increase in cars, but also Kauai’s humble byways — one lane only in each direction, for example — that clogs things.


Some relief is occurring: A state project to widen Kaumualii Highway to ease Lihue traffic is now in its second phase. The little town is getting citified.


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Who writes this stuff? Somebody must of "offed" the news because this blurb doesn't have any basis in real live news.


As we on Kaua`i know the "super-highway" will go through the currently traffic-free path that leads to the South and West Sides and not through the East Side where the traffic is in Kapa`a-Wailua. It isn't even really "in" Lihu'e town proper and primarily runs through miles of rural agricultural land.


"Not For You Highway" as it's called here is a four-lane state-planned and federally and state-funded boondoggle which is intended to bring future visitors from the airport- bypassing Lihu`e town- to the tens of thousands of hotel rooms and hundreds of thousands of tourists we are "expecting," according to the state's (not the county's) plans for uncontrolled, rampant development of Po`ipu, over the next 50 years.


It's certainly not for we poor schnooks stuck in East Side traffic except maybe to commute for an hour from someplace we can afford to live so we can clean toilet bowls for a nickel over minimum wage.


As a matter of fact, while the tourists will have a straight four-lane shot to the resorts in Po`ipu, those commuting from Kapa`a to work there will, after battling the East Side traffic, have to sit in Lihu`e traffic too because there's no bypass of Lihu`e planned by the state.


Can you say "Revenge of the PLDC?


The lack of research notwithstanding, not having anyone actually on Kaua`i the S-A didn't even know to delve into what this waste of highway funds is really about... possibly because they didn't even know where it is.


But how would they know? Apparently, as the lack of Kaua`i datelines shows, Neighbor Island reporter Rosemary Bernardo "covers" Kaua`i from her desk in the paper's city room. Who do they think that harebrained scheme to drain the water from the Alakai Swamp was for? We prisoners of the East Side traffic?


Try a hundred thousand new tourists a day who tax our sewers, police, fire and water while the legislature "scoops" the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) that was intended to offset the county's' costs each year.


Apparently the editorial's scribe is among those who just couldn't understand what we had against the "H-4" aka The SuperFerry. Or the PLDC.


And it seems, never will.

Friday, March 7, 2014

IS WOOLEY STILL A MAMMOTH?

IS WOOLEY STILL A MAMMOTH?: Although many had their hair on fire last night at the news that Rep. Jessica Wooley will be leaving her post as chair of the House Agriculture Committee to head the state's the state’s Office of Environmental Quality Control, it appears others have more trust in the House to kill legislative attempts to preempt county laws that regulate pesticides and GE foods without Wooley being there any more to block them.


According to an article in Civil Beat today it may take so long to confirm her that her ability to block senate legislation that would restrict counties from regulating agricultural activities will remain in place until it's too late to do anything this session.


But Hawai`i Island Councilmember Margaret Wille still sees treachery. The article quotes her as saying “I think it's a political move to get her out of the way,” continuing by saying that before Wooley started leading the Agriculture Committee, lawmakers didn't even consider GMO labeling proposals.


But others think that even without Wooley heading the Ag Committee the House will not act until the courts do.


The article ends by saying:

Before accepting the governor's offer, Wooley said she thought about what her departure might mean for the House's handling of GMO-related issues. But after talking with her colleagues, she decided that she thinks the House will remain consistent even if she leaves.


The House passed a bill last year to require labels on some genetically modified food. And while this year the Senate has considered proposals to undermine county GMO regulations, the House has refused to hear those bills.


House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Thursday that the House wants to wait until the courts decide on the merits of county rules before intervening. Several companies, including Syngenta, have sued Kauai County to protest its new law requiring more disclosure about genetic engineering and pesticide use from biotech companies.


House leadership is committed to the same policies,” Wooley said. “I don’t think anything will change as a result [of my departure].”


That rings true to Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser, former director of the OEQC. Although Hooser supports regulation of genetically modified farming, he’s confident — unlike some other activists — that the House won’t change its position.


I believe the House and the Senate have heard loud and clear from the public already that taking away the county authority to regulate and protect citizens is not good policy, nor good politics,” Hooser said.


Should anyone really trust anything that anyone in the legislature says these days? Not as long as the chemical industry is paying the bills for their re-election in November.