Condo use of public land would be settled with deal

By BRIAN PERRY, City Editor

The 60-unit Hale Kai O Kihei condominium complex would be assessed a fine and administrative costs of $760 and pay for an independent appraisal to use nearly 3,150 square feet of state-owned beach reserve land in South Maui, according to a proposal to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

According to a submittal from the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Land Division, the condominium encroached on five areas of state beachfront property. These include:

* A 2,090-square-foot easement for a waterline fronting a patio area used to supply water to two showers.

* A 497-square-foot portion of a pool deck and a narrow strip of a patio area.

* A 200-square-foot shower station and waterline in the center of the condo complex at 1310 Uluniu Road.

* A 186-square-foot portion of a concrete patio area fronting a shuffleboard.

* A 176-square-foot shower station and waterline at the north end of the condo complex.

The proposal calls for granting the condominium a 55-year, nonexclusive easement. The matter is among several agenda items scheduled for the land board’s Friday morning meeting in Honolulu.

Following an appraisal to determine the Kihei land’s fair market value, Hale Kai O Kihei would make a one-time payment to the state for rent. The amount would be subject to the review and approval by the land board chairperson.

Because the easement would have a minimal environmental impact, it’s exempt from doing an environmental assessment.

In addition to paying a fine and administrative costs and for a land appraisal, Hale Kai O Kihei also would need to install and maintain signs “indicating public use allowed within (the) easement area.”

The Hale Kai O Kihei property was found to have “several encroaching unauthorized improvements consisting of two barbecue stations, three showers, a main waterline and two sections of a concrete lanai,” the staff submittal says.

Staff research showed that on Feb. 28, 1986, the land board approved a right-of-entry permit for Hale Kai O Kihei for landscaping and maintenance of the portion of the beach reserve fronting the condominium complex. The condominium obtained a special management area assessment and determination and a shoreline setback in March 1986 for minor landscaping work within the beach reserve.

However, after reviewing documentation for the condominium’s use of state land, “staff found that the only permitted use of the area was for minor landscaping and maintenance purposes.

“At no time was . . . Hale Kai O Kihei granted permission to install improvements which were and/or are currently located within the beach reserve,” the staff submittal says.

The proposal calls for public land, including areas with two showers, to remain open for public use.

Hale Kai O Kihei resident manager Steve Selee said he was aware of the situation, but he referred comment to the condominium association’s president. The president did not contact The Maui News to comment.

Maui District Land Agent Daniel Ornellas said Hale Kai O Kihei officials have been cooperative in addressing violations discovered since reports of unauthorized uses of state beach reserve land surfaced in Kihei in January 2007.

The condominium had two barbecue stations that were removed at the owners’ cost, and three shower areas were reduced to two, Ornellas said. The condo complex also had large overgrown hedges that impeded public access to the area, and those were cut back to its property line.

“They’re doing their best to come in compliance with the state,” he said. “They’ve been cooperative, helpful and compliant.”

The complaint of unauthorized state beach reserve use revealed that “quite a bit of homes” from the north side of Kalama Park to the Maui Sunset at West Waipuilani Road were encroaching on public lands, Ornellas said.

Some property owners took the liberty to landscape public lands or plant hedges or build rock walls and fences on state property, often blocking public access, Ornellas said.

The staff submittal said the unauthorized improvements and obstructions created “the impression that these public areas are privately owned and not open to the public for access and use.”

Maui state land managers identified each property owner and documented all encroachments and unauthorized improvements that extended into the beach reserve from the abutting inland properties.

Ornellas said state officials identified property owners and gave them notices of the encroachments. Most complied, he said, but others did not.

Those property owners have the option to remove improvements on public lands at their own expense or apply for an easement from the state. That would involve payment for use of the property based on fair market value, he said.

A group of property owners formed the Uluniu Beach Reserve Association and hired a private environmental consultant to draft a plan to manage the beach reserve area, Ornellas said. The plan emphasizes preservation of the area’s natural dune system.

The state assigned a project coordinator from Oahu to work with the group, but that coordinator is no longer with the department, he said. A plan for a landscaping and maintenance agreement between the state and the association has not been carried out.

This isn’t the first time the state has imposed fines for property owners who’ve encroached on state-owned beach lands. According to a 2010 BLNR report, Barbara Harrison was fined $1,000 for installing underground irrigation near her beachfront property along Halama Street in Kihei.

Harrison was given 30 days to pay the fine and remove the irrigation system and other landscaping she had installed adjacent to her privately owned property, with an additional $1,000 per day in fines for every day the violation persisted after the initial 30-day period.

In the 2010 report, department officials wrote: “Existing civil penalties for most violations are nominal ($500) and do not appear to be a serious deterrent for such behavior.”

The board used its executive powers to impose the higher fine of $1,000 for the first offense, and another $1,000 for any further violations.

* Brian Perry can be reached at Staff Writer Eileen Chao contributed to this report.