Grading in Kapaia Valley draws violation notice

Kaua’i County has issued a violation notice to Visionary LLC for an alleged grading violation on land owned by the company in a valley near the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Kapaia Valley just north of Lihu’e.

The county notice stems from what is alleged to be the removal of large amounts of dirt and a number of boulders and trees from the land by members of a local family that began in late November.

Because of a conflict of interest with a member of its staff, the Kaua’i County Prosecutor’s Office has referred the case to the Maui County Prosecutor’s Office.

There also was flattening of vegetation on the banks of parts of a stream that winds through the valley and past parts of the foundation of the church. A dirt road also has been created in the valley.

A Kaua’i County Public Works official, who asked not to be identified, said the grading work “went over the threshold for the grading limits… over 100 cubic yards.”

The Public Works office said the violation is not tied directly to Visionary, but to the Durant family, who live in the valley.

Butch Durant, who is part Hawaiian, and his son, Roland Durant declined to comment on the county’s action.

Complaints about the work were filed with the county last December.

The Rev. Paul McLeod, a priest at the Immaculate Conception Church, said he doesn’t want to get involved with the controversy and that his primary concern is that the work will erode the hillside below the foundation of his church’s sanctuary.

“My concern is that all of this (vegetation below the hillside) has been taken away, and when you have rainfall, we will lose the church base,” McLeod said.

He said he also has concerns about “liability” that may arise because of possible erosion and the work. However, county officials have told the church that the hillside is stable and that the grading work is not likely to undermine it.

The land on which the church sits takes up more than an acre and was donated to the church by Lihue Plantation, or its earlier subsidiary, Hanamaulu Plantation. The Immaculate Conception Church has been holding services in Kapaia Valley for 118 years.

McLeod said he and members of the church are concerned they were not told early on about the work. He said he has been sick and out of the office and recently found out about the work.

Mayor Bryan Baptiste, his staff and a member of the Maui County prosecutor’s office met with McLeod and Craig Nakahiki, who is said to be a representative for the Durants, and others working in the valley, on March 23 to discuss the issue.

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

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