Kokee lease legislation deferred

The Senate Water, Land and Agriculture Committee yesterday deferred action on a legislative resolution to stop a planned auction this year by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for 140 recreational cabin leases in the Koke‘e/Waimea State Park Complex.

The action comes in the wake of a lawsuit cabin owners have filed in 5th Circuit Court that is related to the auction, including preventing the state from taking the cabins without compensation should the auction occur.

The cabin owners have held the leases for 20 years and the leases expire at the end of this year.

The leases are coveted partly because the cabins are located in remote mountain areas and partly because the cabins allow leaseholders easy access to more than 4,000 plus acres that make up the Koke‘e/Waimea State Park Complex, the flagship park of the state DLNR.

Owners of the cabins that are 50 years old and older also want to renegotiate the leases because they have made considerable investment in the cabins over the years.

Yesterday, the Senate’s Committee on Water, Land and Agriculture, led by House Rep. Russell S. Kokubun, deferred action on the House resolution advanced by House Rep. Brian Schatz, vice chairman of the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee.

A cosponsor of the bill was House Rep. Ezra Kanoho, District 15 on Kaua‘i.

“The committee felt it was within the realm of the Land Board’s jurisdiction to handle this issue,” said a spokeswoman for Kokubun in explaining the Senate committee’s decision.

The Senate committee also didn’t move the resolution forward because the lease issue is in litigation, she said.

Amy Luke, a spokeswoman for Schatz, said in order for the resolution to be voted on by the Legislature, the House and the Senate would have to reintroduce it jointly in next year’s session.

For the resolution to take effect, the measure would have to be approved by both the Senate and the House by a two-thirds vote.

The concurrent House and Senate resolution asked the Board of Land and Natural Resources to allow the DLNR to negotiate a new lease with any existing leaseholders who have made improvements to their properties.

The resolution also asked the Board of Land and Natural Resources to auction off any lot that “does not have any existing lessee that wishes to continue leasing the recreational-residence lot.”

The resolution carries no legal weight and merely represents the wish of some legislators.

By introducing the resolution earlier this year, Schatz protested against the use of the auction as a way for the state to generate more revenue.

Schatz also contended the auction could result in displacement of longtime lease holders.

State DLNR officials say they are proposing shorter-term leases, including possibly five-year leases, to enable more people to use the recreational cabins.

In an e-mail, Frank O. Hay of the Koke‘e Leaseholders Association states a status report on the resolution will be given at a general membership meeting scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the CCC Camp in Koke‘e.

He said the House had approved two measures urging the state to renegotiate directly with the existing cabin owners on the leases.

Hay said Koke‘e Leaseholders Association leaders also will go over the lawsuit aimed at stopping the state from taking over the cabins without compensation should leaseholders not retain their leases in the auction.

DLNR officials have said the existing 20-year leases allow the state to take any remaining cabins on the land after the leases expire.

The time and place of the auction was not immediately known.

In an e-mail to The Garden Island, Hay told the leaseholders they have options, one of which is “do nothing,” or be added onto lawsuits against the state.

Many leaseholders belong to the Koke‘e Leaseholders Association, but some cabin owners have chosen not to join the group.

“Moving your cabin is a hard decision — and an expensive decision — but it could be one of the best investments you make, if there is an auction,” Hay wrote.

He also wrote: “ At the auction, many of us plan to advertise the fact that we have the proper permits to move the cabin. If we are outbid at auction, and if we are not offered a fair price for our cabin, we’ll not hesitate to move our cabins.”

Moving the cabins could deter people who are not current leaseholders from bidding for them at the auction, Hay indicated.

“We think it’s a great $50 insurance policy — perhaps enough to give prospective bidders second thoughts about getting a cabin at a ‘fire sale’ price,” Hay wrote.

Hay said a workshop is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the CCC Camp to help leaseholders prepare a Conservation District Use Application to move the cabins.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.


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