County, state and federal agencies are determining if legal action is warranted against North Shore property owner James Pflueger for alleged unpermitted grading that has damaged a beachfront home on Pila’a Bay.
Rick and Amy Marvin, the home’s owners, told the Kaua’i County Council’s planning committee Wednesday that along with the investigation, action is needed immediately on the situation at the rural northeast Kaua’i land.
The couple claim that the county has not done anything significant in pursuing claims against Pflueger since November, when runoff and mud poured down a hillside on Pflueger’s shoreline property and onto the Marvin’s beachfront homes and lands at Pila’a.
Runoff from a diversion around culverts that were allegedly installed without county permits also poured into offshore waters and damaged marine eco-systems, county officials contend.
The officials, however, told the Marvins that the county, for lack of authority, cannot coordinate investigations by the county, state Department of Land and Natural Resources and state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Randal Valenciano, who chairs the council planning committee, which is looking into the matter as well, said he could continue to hold meetings to find a solution.
Even though Pila’a 400 LLC, formerly Pflueger Properties, has withdrawn an application to subdivide 383 acres in Pila’a for a 19-lot residential subdivision, officials said they would pursue investigations into unpermitted activities that occurred on the property.
To complaints that no agency is taking the lead against Pflueger, Wallace Rezentes Sr., administrative assistant to Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, said there are jurisdiction questions involving the county, state and federal agencies looking into the alleged violations.
“To put together a super agency isn’t possible,” Rezentes said, but the agencies are continuing to communicate with one another.
Valenciano said questions are arising about which laws can be applied, and enforced, by the county, state and federal agencies related to the alleged violations.
Councilman Gary Hooser said one agency should take the lead, if possible, to “give us confidence that we are moving forward.”
Westside resident Bruce Pleas suggested at the meeting that the council select a councilmember to take the lead to coordinate the joint investigation, “then maybe we can get something done.”
But, a county official said, a member of the county’s legislative branch may not be empowered to carry out an administrative function.
County officials have said that with the exception of remedial work, all other work on Pflueger’s property has stopped.
But Amy Marvin said Pflueger, or his workers, are still engaged in work that poses a danger to her home and family.
She contended that a ledge above her home located on Pflueger’s property contains large rocks that could fall on her home.
She also said an access road to her home has eroded away significantly due to heavy rains in the last week and is barely passable. The situation will only get worse with the rainy season coming, she contended.
“It is a river of mud going down to the beach,” Marvin said.
Meta Zimmerman-McBride, a neighbor of the Marvins, said her teenage son runs the risk of serious injury every time he walks down the road. He uses the road every day to get to a school bus, she said.
“I swear to you guys, there is no gravel on the road,” she said. “It was raped, murdered and covered with mud.”
Rick Marvin said the situation is of such a dire nature that somebody could be seriously injured or die while trying to drive down the dirt road.
The road connects to another road leading to his home, Zimmerman-McBride’s and other homeowners in the area, Rick Marvin said.
“Today it is impassable,” he told the council committee. “Someone is going to go off the side of the cliff.”
A vehicle could easily drive over the cliff at the intersection of the two roads, Marvin said.
For safety reasons, Marvin said, he wants to cut down two guava plum trees that were falling and put them at the intersection of the roads.
Marvin said a top official with the Kaua’i County Public Works Department told him that was not allowed.
Amy Marvin said she also called the state attorney general’s office, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Mayor Kusaka’s office for help, but the calls didn’t lead to any resolution.
Council chairman Ron Kouchi said it appears the condition of the road poses a danger to residents and that if the county is aware of this and “does nothing, then the county could be liable.”
Pictures and a videotape of the hazardous road conditions provide sufficient evidence that something should be done, he said.
Deputy County Attorney Amy Esaki said she wanted to confer with the Kaua’i County Public Works Department to see if permits from state or federal agencies are needed before any repair work proceeds.
The county, she said, doesn’t want to run the risk of violating laws “that are on the books as well.”
Other audience members said Kusaka could invoke emergency powers to make the repairs, just as she did when she ordered warning signs be posted on a path leading to Queen’s Bath, a coastal saltwater pool, at the Princeville Resort earlier this year.
Staff Writer Lester Chang can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 225).