Napili resort facing violations for unpermitted rock wall work

County orders activities that began as Lane neared stopped

Maui County is in the process of issuing violations and ordering fines for work the Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort conducted last month on a rock wall facing the beach. Heavy equipment was observed at work Aug. 23, as Hurricane Lane was approaching the state. KAI NISHIKI photos

Maui County has ordered the Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort to stop work on an existing rock structure near the shoreline after West Maui residents complained that the work may be unpermitted and unsafe and could impact the nearby bay and beach.

The county currently is in the process of issuing violation notices and will impose fines per special management and shoreline rules, said Deputy Planning Director Joseph Alueta on Monday.

Alueta said activities that may contribute to a violation include: removal of a section of the existing rock structure, new rock material placed along the shoreline, staging of new rocks along Hui Road, use of heavy equipment, activity within the public beach access, work in the shoreline area without the use of appropriate best management practices to minimize safety and environmental impacts.

As Hurricane Lane threatened the islands last month, West Maui activist Kai Nishiki and others observed workers using heavy equipment to take boulders from a stockpile along Hui Road, the roadway fronting the condominium/hotel, and through a public beach access way to the lawn of the condominium property facing the ocean. Then the rocks were dropped from the condominium lawn to the edge of the property facing the shoreline, Nishiki said.

During transport, the equipment tore up asphalt on the walkway, and now there are “big trenches within the shoreline path,” where people were trying to access the beach next to heavy equipment, she said.

West Maui activist Kai Nishiki said heavy equipment was moving rocks from a stockpile shown on Hui Road through a public access way and placed on the beach side of the Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort.

“It was a really dangerous situation for the public,” Nishiki said.

Hurricane Lane, which had Hawaii in its sights on Aug. 23, brought rain to Napili, and the pathway was filled with mud because of the rock-moving work, she said.

Nishiki said she got the runaround when asking to see a permit from the construction company doing the work. An official at the Napili Sunset said that there was a permit to do the work, but she never was shown a copy of the document.

Nishiki began taping the scene, including when she was questioned by police about her taping the activities and speaking to the workers.

Alueta said that there are no recent authorizations for emergency work in the shoreline area at the Napili Sunset.

Rains associated with Hurricane Lane fell in Napili last month. Crews doing work in the area of the Napili Sunset Beachfront Resort tracked mud and damaged the public access way, West Maui residents said.

A 1991 permit for the initial construction of the rock structure does authorize repair, “but this is limited to restack of the original materials via hand placement,” Alueta said in an email.

Frederick Hidalgo, general manager of the Napili Sunset, said Monday that the permitting issue is a “misunderstanding between the (condominium) board of directors and the county.”

He said the condominium board of directors was complying with the permit issued in the ’90s when it fixed the rock structure. With the possibility of hurricane surges on the way, the condominium board was trying to protect the property and requested the work be done.

Overall, Hidalgo said the condominium maintains the beach accesses as well as provides showers and trash bins for the public.

“We have no intention to ruin the bay,” he said, noting that the condominium business also depends on the bay.

The areas where crews worked were cleaned up, and no debris was left behind, Hidalgo said.

Rocks on and off the property were used in the job. Hildalgo acknowledged that some rocks were new and put into the wall to replace cracked ones.

After the storm passed, the work has stopped per the county, and no damage has occurred in the area, Hidalgo said.

Alueta said: “Fortunately, the activities so far have not incurred damages to the beach or water quality. However, alterations to the shoreline area may have to be corrected.”

While best management practices have been employed at the request of the county at the site, there still is potential for runoff-related impacts from high waves because there is a section of exposed bank along the shoreline, Alueta said.

Runoff also could occur from rainfall because of earthwork done through and adjacent to the public access way, Alueta added.

The county — and possibly the state — will make a determination on the full scope of any potential violations and corrective measures. The property owners will have to work with the government agencies to determine how best to resolve any violations.

Nishiki said that there were heavy rains in the area on Sept. 12 and that water that normally runs down the public access way was muddier because of the earthwork.

“They are contributing to a problem that is already existing,” she said.

Nishiki found it shocking that the work was being done as a hurricane was approaching when the county was shut down.

“They know that all the county and state offices are closed” so no one will know, she said.

“This illegal and unpermitted work was done with the intent to avoid following the SMA (special management area) rules put in place to protect our shoreline and public health and safety,” Nishiki said.

“These are the kinds of actions we really need to make an example of,” she continued. “The county needs to come down hard on violations like this and fully (order) all the fines they have the power to use.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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