PAUKUKALO — The Planning Department sent a second letter of warning to the owners of a Paukukalo oceanfront parcel Friday after an attempt was made to clear vegetation from part of the property without a special management area permit.
The developers of North Shore at Waiehu, who have been represented at recent meetings by partner Robin Williams, got their first warning for illegally erecting a series of pipe barriers and locked gates at various points along the 65-acre parcel to block vehicular access to the popular shoreline. (Williams is not the actor.)
Another violation could lead to a fine of as much as $100,000.
The latest infraction occurred Tuesday when Williams brought in a small backhoe to begin constructing a gravel parking lot in a sandy area near a gate by Maluhia Church. A Paukukalo resident called Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., the chairman of the Maui/Lanai Islands Burial Council, about what was happening. Maxwell alerted state archaeologist Melissa Kirkendall, who immediately went to the scene just off Lower Waiehu Beach Road and told Williams not to proceed. Apparently, Kirkendall arrived before any digging occurred.
Kirkendall said Friday that, even though Williams had an archaeologist on site, no subsurface work could begin without a review by the State Historic Preservation Division because the construction was slated to take place in a sand dune where it's common to find ancient burials. She said North Shore at Waiehu had not yet completed a required archaeological inventory report for state preservation officials.
Kirkendall said she told Williams that he could remove the brush with weed whackers or other cutting tools that would not disturb the ground. She said he could also legally put down gravel.
"He can clear by hand as long as he doesn't pull up any roots," she said.
Williams was very cooperative, said Kirkendall.
When reached Saturday, Williams said the developers have not yet received the second letter from the county. He said he had simply been "pulling weeds" to create a gravel parking lot "that the Hawaiians said they wanted."
The developers have come under fire recently for putting up pipe barriers and locked gates at certain points of the parcel that they purchased for nearly $1.5 million from Wailuku Agribusiness last year. Although it's still possible to reach the ocean by foot, vehicles have been limited, angering many in the community who were accustomed to being able to freely drive to the shoreline to unload fishing gear or surfboards.
Hawaii law requires that the public have access to beaches.
Williams says the partners have provided access, while many in Paukukalo insist it's been cut off.
Planning Director John Min couldn't give a clear answer as to what actually constitutes access.
"We're not aware of any specific requirement in state or county law that requires access to be vehicular access," said Min.
That doesn't necessarily mean the Planning Department will side with the developers on whether or not to issue an after-the-fact permit for the barriers.
"The area has been accessible to vehicles for a number of years," said Min. "We do want to take those historic and traditional uses into consideration. Community input is a key input, especially from people who have used the area for generations and generations."
Min said Williams has been told by the Maui Planning Commission to work things out with the community.
"That's what we're encouraging at this point," he said.
Because vehicles can no longer drive to the shoreline, cars have been stacking up on streets such as Lower Waiehu Beach Road, upsetting other residents who say the clog of parked cars endangers their neighborhood.
David Tabion has already gotten "96 percent" of the 29 homeowners along Lower Waiehu Beach to sign a petition that he hopes to deliver soon to Mayor James "Kimo" Apana. The petition asks Apana to force the developers to unlock the gates and allow access.
"I think it's an emergency thing and he (Williams) refuses to take the gate down," said Tabion. "It's like slapping us in the face."
Tabion also wants to know how long the county will take to make a decision on whether or not the after-the-fact permit will be issued.
"If the planning commission or planning department takes four or five months, what's going to happen in the meantime?" he said.
Williams said the pipe barriers and gates were erected to keep out drug dealers, homeless campers and people who dump trash on the shoreline. He said the developers plan to build 60 to 65 house lots that will sell from $175,000 to $750,000 apiece.
His partners are Paul Wenner, the inventor of the Gardenburger who has a home in Paukukalo, and Giovanni Rosati, a Portland resident who plans to move to Maui.
Williams said he "absolutely" believes differences can be resolved with the community.
"I think people are upset about a lot of things that aren't happening or things that aren't necessarily true," he said.