Planning commission to visit beachfront Ha’ena homesite

To get a better grasp of a conflict over a proposal to develop a multi-million dollar shoreline home by the YMCA Camp Naue in Ha’ena, the Kaua’i County Planning Commission plans to visit the site on March 24.

Property owner Joseph Brescia contends that a 20-foot shoreline setback applies to his property and that he has the right to build parts of his home within 31 feet of the shoreline.

Opposing Brescia’s plans are Harold Bronstein, a Kaua’i attorney who lives across the street from the proposed project, other local residents and the Kaua’i County Planning Department. They all contend that a 40-foot setback and an open zone district restriction apply to the property.

The zones exist to prevent homes like Brescia’s from being built too close to the shoreline, the critics say.

The controversy deals with property rights versus efforts by residents to preserve the rural flavor of areas by the YMCA camp.

At a meeting Tuesday, the commission announced it would visit the 15-lot Wainiha Subdivision II, in which Brescia’s property is located.

The commission also will hold contested case hearings from April 17-24 for intervenors in the case. The list includes Bronstein, Caren Diamond and the North Shore Ohana, represented by Barbara Robeson, a former planning commissioner.

Hong said he felt the site visit was not needed and would not be productive because the case involves interpretation of legal matters only.

But Bronstein said the visit would help the commission see what Brescia is proposing.

Hanalei resident David Denson said it was imperative for the commission to make the visit, as it would allow commissioners to understand how vacation rentals that operate near Brescia’s property have altered the rural feel of parts of Ha’ena.

Denson said although Brescia has said he plans to live in the home he builds, it is possible “you can see a vacation rental sign go up on the day after the house is built.”

Brescia is seeking an amendment of a Special Management Area Use permit for his 18,106 square-foot lot. Brescia also is seeking a use permit for the project.

Brescia wants to construct a 3,600-square-foot single-story home consisting of four bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths.

Bronstein said it might be prudent for the commission not to consider Brescia’s proposal until the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has resolved an appeal of the certified shoreline fronting Brescia’s property.

But deputy county attorney Laurel Loo noted that DLNR’s decision isn’t likely to have any impact on any commission action on Brescia’s permit requests.

Hong said any further delays by the commission on his client’s project will needlessly drive up Brescia’s development cost.

Hong said his client is paying in excess of $6,000 each month to “hold” the property Brescia bought for a little more than $900,000.

Hong said the primary issue of the contested case hearing deals with whether the commission accepts or rejects the open zoning designation for the Ha’ena subdivision approved in 1985.

Hong said that if the commission rules the zone is not valid for the Brescia property, then his client would have the use of a 20-foot setback, although only two parts of the house would actually be built within 31 feet of the setback.

If the commission rules the 1985 zone is valid, allowing for use of another buffer zone of between 45 to 75 feet from the shoreline, the body might consider another way to determine where building can take place on Brescia’s property, Hong said.

Because the shoreline keeps shifting due to ocean activity, the better way to measure the open zone would be to take a reading from the property pins on Alealea Road makai to the ocean, Hong said.

If the commission rules the buffer zone does apply to Brescia, the developer may pursue legal court action, Hong said.

On the establishment of the setback, the certified shoreline is the only way to determine it, Bronstein responded.

But he said he didn’t see anything wrong with using the property pins, as Hong suggested, to determine the location of the buffer zone.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@pulitzer.net

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