County may revoke Pflueger’s development approvals

Kaua’i County might halt a bid by North Shore landowner Jimmy Pflueger to develop his 385-acre property at Pila’a if grading violations on the property are substantiated, a top county official told a Kaua’i County Council committee Thursday.

Deputy planning director Sheila Miyake said the county may revoke tentative approval for Pflueger’s project if the claims are confirmed in a county investigation into the problem.

Miyake made the pronouncement during a meeting of the council’s planning committee at the historic County Building Thursday.

Revocation of the tentative subdivision approval for Pflueger’s project would hold up his bid for final subdivision approval for his 19-lot agricultural subdivision project. County records show that Pflueger is proposing to build luxury homes on the lots.

The possibility of such action by the county stems from a complaint made by the family of Amy Marvin that unpermitted grubbing on Pflueger’s coastal land generated runoff and mud that poured down a hillside and onto their beachfront property in November, causing severe damage.

The runoff reportedly also damaged a coral reef and marine life.

Pflueger also is alleged to have constructed, without government permits, culverts on a hill above the home to divert water away from the home.

Deputy county engineer Ian Costa reported two more apparent grading violations on Pflueger’s property.

The reports of the two cases have been sent to county attorneys for possible criminal and civl action, Costa said.

One of the reported violations occurred at a site located north of the Marvin property. The other was reported on Pflueger’s property located mauka of Kuhio Highway. In all, Pflueger owns about 1,100 acres in the area.

Related to his proposed 385-acre project, Pflueger had to meet certain conditions to retain tentative approval for it. Some of the key conditions included:

– A preliminary title report for the 19 proposed lots.

– Pflueger must resolve road widening issues with the state Department of Transportation’s Highways Division.

– Construction plan approvals for road, water, drainage, electrical and telephone utilities and facilities, and securing surety bonding for their completion.

– Public access.

– No encroachment onto a state conservation district unless a state Conservation District Use Application permit was obtained.

– An agricultural master plan for the subdivided lots.

-A flood study.

To move his project along, Pflueger must meet conditions set by a host of agencies, including the Kaua’i County planing department, public works department and water department and the state Department of Health and state Department of Transportation Highways Division.

The investigation into alleged grading violations on Pflueger’s property continues, county attorney Hartwell Blake told the council committee, adding that there is no statute of limitations on possible criminal or civil legal action against Pflueger.

To help mitigate the damage from runoff, silt fencing has been installed on the Pflueger property and culverts have been blocked, Costa said.

The county also is waiting for a study on the stability of the soil from Ernest Hirata, a subcontractor for Clyde Kodani and Associates. The firm is representing Pflueger.

Costa said public works staffers visit Pflueger’s site weekly to ensure that no unpermitted grading work occurs.

As a way to clamp down on unpermitted work, satellite imagery technology might be used to catch violators, suggested councilman Jimmy Tokioka. Costa said he would check into that possibility.

Councilman Gary Hooser said he was concerned some landowners might obtain a grading permit exemption for agricultural land from the U.S. Department of Agricultural to get around the county grading permit system.

Costa said he would ask the federal agency to send a representative to a future council meeting to explain the agency’s functions and responsibility related to monitoring agricultural projects involving grading.

At the same time, Costa noted that that agency is short-handed and does not “monitor as much as we do.”

Cooperation by the county and federal agencies will help reduce the use of federal agricultural exemptions as a loophole for landowners, Hooser said.

Councilman Bryan Baptiste asked whether it would be wise to do away with the federal exemption.

Costa indicated the federal program has its merits, and said better coordination was needed between the county and federal government in protecting against unpermitted grading.

In other matters, audience members debated the merit of a resolution for a charter amendment to allow the council to create a power authority to operate Kauai Electric through a county ordinance.

The county administration is proposing the creation of the power authority in the event the state Public Utilities Commission doesn’t approve the proposed sale of Kauai Electric to Kauai Island Utility Co-op for $215 million.

If the council doesn’t vote on the resolution soon, the charter amendment proposal is not likely to get on the November election ballot, cautioned speaker Ray Chuan of Hanalei.

In that case, the matter won’t be put back on the ballot for vote until the next election in 2004, Chuan said.

Chuan also said at this time it might better to just have voters decide whether the council should have the power to create the power authority.

Through an ordinance that could be voted on later, the council, with consultation by the public, can determine the duties, responsibilities and functions of the power authority, Chuan said.

Deputy county attorney Galen Nakamura said that may not be the best way to go, noting the American Public Power Association, representing municipalities with power authorities, recommends the simultaneous creation of power authorities with spelled out powers and responsibilities as the best way to serve the electrical needs of a community.

Kapa’a resident John Barretto cautioned that the duties and powers of the power authority have to be spelled out clearly so that people know what they will be voting for.

Nakamura said later that nothing has been decided and that the council may amended the resolution in a way that is very different from the form it now in.

Kaua’i resident Bob Measel said other options should be pursued, stressing voters are being locked into only one option with what is being offered in the proposed resolution.

Measel said that he was “surprised” that the county council has not amended the resolution to allow voters to decide whether they want a “power authority or co-op” to run the utility.

Tokioka said that idea wasn’t likely to fly because the county has no control over the co-op, a contention echoed by Nakamura, the county attorney.

Hooser, meanwhile, said he won’t be comfortable voting on the charter amendment proposal if its language doesn’t allow the power authority to operate separately from government control.

Staff Writer Lester Chang can be reached at mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 225).

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