Organizers of the first Paia Ukulele Festival said the music will go on as planned today, despite letters this week from the Maui County Planning Department saying the event didn't comply with county code requirements.
"We're moving forward with it," Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier said Friday. "All we want to do is create a beautiful festival for our families and our visitors of Maui Nui on the north shore."
After working for about two months to plan and promote the festival, Martinez Burgmaier said he received two letters from the county at about 3 p.m. Wednesday saying proceeding with the event could result in "civil and possible criminal enforcement action."
While admission to the festival is free, a website for the festival says it will include craft and food booths, with no outside food allowed. The festival, including entertainment by Paula Fuga and the Kalama School Ukulele Band, is planned from noon to 5 p.m. at 65 Hana Highway on oceanfront property where Johnny B's Burgers is located.
Demonstrations of Hawaiian cultural activities, including ukulele playing, net throwing and wood carving, also are planned, Martinez Burgmaier said.
Maui County Planning Director Will Spence said Friday that "the property is a little complex since the side nearest Hana Highway is zoned for business, but the makai side is residential."
"The commercial activities are fine on the business side," Spence said, but a special management area assessment or permit for special events is still needed.
"Commercial activities on the residential side are not permitted," he said, and would require a conditional permit.
As of early Friday afternoon, an assessment hadn't been turned in to the county so officials could determine whether the ukulele festival would be in compliance.
Spence said the Planning Department won't take action at today's event.
"We may go look to see if the organizers are attempting to comply with state and county law, but we will not enforce at the event," he said.
The letter delivered to Martinez Burgmaier and the Johnny B's owner Thomas Leary says a violation could result in an initial fine of $1,000 and a fine of $1,000 a day for as long as the violation exists.
Hinano Kaleleiki, who has worked with the business owner leasing the property to maintain a presence and to keep vagrants from settling on the oceanfront portion, said he didn't understand why the ukulele festival was drawing so much county scrutiny.
"I'm having a party and I'm inviting my friends and family," Kaleleiki said. "Basically, it's food, crafts, music, and have some fun and enjoy the day.
"I'm Hawaiian, I not going to do anything for hurt my aina. They've turned this simple day into a fight for our rights."
Spence said Planning Department employees have had discussions with the business owner leasing the land and his consultant since mid-2011 about the issue of activity on the property.
"This is the third complaint planning has received since August from different members of the public," Spence said. "We have responded to those public complaints by following up with the lessee at every step of the way."
Spence said the lessee was aware of permitting and special management area requirements, having been sent a letter with that information in late October.
"We have made the owner aware as well," Spence said.
He said organizers for events, such as the ukulele festival, usually do check with the county Planning Department. "We write permits for quite a few events every year," he said, including Halloween activities in Lahaina, the Maui Film Festival and events on the Kaanapali golf course.
Martinez Burgmaier said he was "kind of baffled" about why the county would require a special management area permit for the ukulele festival when Johnny B's already has such a permit for the property that took more than three months to obtain.
According to the county website, SMA permits also are required when there's an "increase in intensity" in use of property near the ocean.
Martinez Burgmaier said that apart from Johnny B's, the only ones selling food would be frozen yogurt and juice vendors who already have their own commercial permits.
With the festival advertised on the radio and through Facebook and with Paia businesses supporting it, Martinez Burgmaier was expecting hundreds and possibly thousands of people to show up.
Kaleleiki had been showing free movies on the oceanfront portion of the same property, installing a viewing platform and planter boxes over a seawall of sharp rocks, until county building inspectors showed up, he said.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.