Possible grubbing violation at Kealia under investigation

The County of Kaua‘i is investigating an alleged case of unpermitted grubbing of a hillside makai of Kealia Road in Kealia.

County public information officer Cyndi Ozaki said Saturday that county officials have sent out an “apparent notice of grubbing violation” over the land clearing.

The Kaua‘i County Council is also taking steps to learn whether the grubbing is being done without a permit.

Confirmation that the grubbing notice went out comes the day after the state Land Board fined Pila‘a landowner Jimmy Pflueger over $46,000 for grading violations that resulted in a major runoff along the coast at isolated Pila‘a.

County officials have promised over the past year to crack down on illegal grubbing and grading in the wake of the environmental damage at Pila‘a.

The parcel in question is owned by Kealia Plantation Company LCC.

A County of Kaua‘i property tax listing shows the Kealia company is based in Tiburon, Calif. Part-time Kilauea resident Michele Hughes and her husband Justin Hughes, and developer Tom McCloskey, were among the investors involved in the purchase of the 6,660 acre Kealia ahupua‘a from Amfac for $15.4 million by the company.

In an Aug. 19 correspondence to the council, Rayne Regush, a resident of Kealia, claimed that the land parcel n which is located near the landmark red former Makee Sugar Co. plantation building at Kealia n is being grubbed without a permit from the county.

The grubbing work involves up to two acres of clearing and extends uphill from Kealia Road to residential parcels on Ka‘ao Road.

The grubbing started in early August and was later halted after county officials intervened, the Kealia resident said in her letter to the council.

In her correspondence to the council, Regush said a week after the grubbing began on the “commercial/agricultural parcel” she contacted the county engineering office to determine whether bulldozing of the lot had been approved by the county.

Regush said she later contacted council vice chair James Tokioka about the matter.

Tokioka heads the council’s planning committee, which is proposing to strengthen the county’s grubbing, grading and stockpiling ordinance to ensure enforcement and to prevent abuses. Regush said Tokioka told her he would stay on top of the concerns she had raised.

Regush said she proceeded to file complaints with Mayor Baptiste’s administration, and Cesar Portugal, who heads the engineering division of the county Public Works Department, and Ted Inouye, chairman of the East Kauai Soil and Water Conservation organization.

Kealia Plantation Co. subdivided about 300 acres on the coastal bluff between Kealia Beach and Donkey Beach, and residential lots have been landscaped at the project, which is known as Kealia Kai, and a sales office has been erected along Kuhio Highway. The company donated 57 acres of land between the beach and the bluff along the coast at Kealia for use as a county-owned walking andbicycling trail.

The donation was accepted by the council, but opposed by environmentalists, who held up the donation for several years. The donation was a key issue in the debate over issuing a special use permit for the upscale residential project.

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

TGI Editor Chris Cook can be reached at ccook@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 227).

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