County agrees to allow zipline to continue

Haiku neighbors plan to file suit to block operation

A Haiku zipline company, which has come under fire from neighbors for noise and other issues and the county Planning Department over whether the operation is a permitted use on agricultural land, will continue to operate under an agreement between the county and the company.

Attorneys for about 30 neighbors of the zipline said Tuesday afternoon that they will be filing a lawsuit shortly in 2nd Circuit Court against Derek Hoyte and D&S Ventures, seeking an injunction to shut down Northshore Zipline Co. and to seek punitive damages.

Northshore Zipline has been operating a seven zipline tour on 17.5 acres at 2065 Kauhikoa Road that was once part of Camp Maui, the training grounds for the 4th Marine Division during World War II.

In August 2013, the Planning Department sent a notice of warning to the property owners and told them they needed a special use permit to operate a zipline in a county agricultural district. The zipline continued to operate and in December 2014, the department sent a notice of violation and an order to cease operations or be fined $1,000 a day.

D&S Ventures agreed to seek a special use permit as “an open land recreation use.” Ziplines are not mentioned as a permitted or special use on agricultural lands.

The company also argued that it did not need a special use permit because the property’s principal use was to preserve, restore and rehabilitate the Camp Maui site. Guides go over the history of the site during tours and old photos of the camp are posted around the property, zipline officials said.

The Maui Planning Commission denied the permit request in July 2016, saying that the historic preservation uses seemed secondary to the zipline operations.

D&S Ventures won an appeal in 2nd Circuit Court in October 2017 with the judge ruling that the commission did not follow contested case hearing procedures. The case was sent back to the commission, which held its last hearing on the permit in October.

A news release, approved by the county and D&S Ventures, said Tuesday that the Planning Department and D&S Ventures “have resolved a dispute.”

“The existing uses of the property, including the challenge course with ziplines, are permitted in this case,” the news release Tuesday said.

Planning Director Michele McLean explained in the news release that World War II Marine bases, including Camp Maui, had training or challenge courses “that were known to include ziplines.”

“The current challenge course is part of the principal permitted use of preserving, restoring and rehabilitating the Camp Maui historic site,” she said. “While there was vocal opposition to the operation as it was previously conducted, the path forward under the settlement is in compliance with the Maui County Code, and gives us full authority to conduct enforcement if there are any future violations.”

Neighbors of the zipline company were unaware Tuesday afternoon of the agreement and were disappointed when told.

“This is a total surprise,” said zipline neighbor Stephen Hynson. “We are highly disappointed with this.”

“I don’t know if they got weak kneed; who knows?” he added.

He described the screams from the zipline riders as “noise pollution.” “These are not the sounds of rural Maui, people screaming to high heavens.”

“They were just whooping it up today,” Hynson said.

The sounds of the wheels on the cables also travel far in Haiku, especially during Kona winds, he said.

Hynson said that the operation is a zipline. “It’s not about historic preservation,” he said, noting that they have had people go on the ziplines. “It was a ruse from the get-go.”

Neighbor Danny Coltart agreed.

“It’s a joyride for everyone to scream,” he said. “There is no memorial.

“I guess we can all put up a joyride.”

He also complained about the company putting up 40-foot towers that allow riders to peer into his home.

“Who would do that?” he asked.

Like Hynson, Coltart expressed disappointment in the agreement, saying that opponents of the zipline had a voice in the process in the planning commission proceeding “and it feels like it got taken away.”

“We didn’t get due process,” Coltart said.

The special use permit application and the appeal of the notice of violation have been withdrawn by the company with the zipline now in compliance with the County Code, the news release said.

“We resent the hell of the outcome,” added Marian Prosser.

The agreement calls for D&S Ventures to add historic preservation features, including to the property’s existing WWII museum.

“The notice of violation and any associated fines have been resolved,” the news release said.

When asked if fines were paid or citations issued, Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said “as part of the settlement agreement, the information about the fines remain confidential.”

Attempts to reach D&S Ventures attorney Calvert G. Chipchase by phone and email Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Any additional zipline components will require prior approval by the Planning Department, which will be allowed to conduct inspections and enforcement activities, the news release said.

D&S Ventures also must take measures to reduce the sound problem, the news release said.

Neighbors’ attorney Anthony Ranken said that mitigating the sound “is not a realistic option.” Northshore Zipline “has already admitted in writing that there is nothing they can do to stop their riders from screaming, and therefore they do not even try,” he said.

Ranken’s associate, Sam Shnider, said that not a single one of the affected neighbors was consulted prior to the settlement agreement.

“The residents of Kauhikoa Road and the surrounding areas are devastated and outraged at the confidential settlement between the County of Maui and the Northshore Zipline to allow the zipline to continue to operate,” he said. “The settlement was reached behind closed doors without any involvement of the public and in complete disregard of the purpose and intent of agricultural districts.”

Ranken was critical of the county entering into the agreement as well.

“We are at a loss to understand why the county would have suddenly changed position after all the notices of violation and years of imposing fines on North Shore zips and inexplicably snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by dropping the prosecution of the notice of violation,” Ranken said.

In the county news release, Hoyte said that “this unique site and this resolution represents a valuable opportunity to continue to preserve its unique history and the one-of-a-kind stories of Maui’s Marines in WWII for younger generations.”

“We look forward to continued cooperation with the Maui County Planning Department to ensure that we operate Maui’s largest WWII historic site in full compliance with all applicable county codes,” he said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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