The path of most resistance

Kaua‘i County Councilmembers Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho yesterday scolded the county for not following the proper process in obtaining permits for six rest areas on a coastal bicycle and pedestrian trail in the Kawaihau District.

During a meeting at the historic County Building this week, other legislators also asked how the county could ask the county Planning Department to amend the Special Management Area Use permit for the six structures when it no longer has a valid state Conservation District Use Application permit.

“We are the authority, (the county) wrote the law, and we are supposed to enforce the law … we should know better … and shame on us for not,” said Rapozo during a meeting of the council’s Public Works Committee.

If he had his way, Rapozo said he would treat the county in the same way it is supposed to treat private landowners who erect unpermitted structures: “Tear it down, reapply (for a permit) and get it built.”

But County Engineer Donald Fujimoto and Public Works spokesman Doug Haigh said if a problem exists, they are moving full bore toward resolving it.

An application has been submitted for an amended SMA to the planning department and Haigh said a design planner is working with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to extend the state permit to allow the built structures to stand.

The six rest areas are located within a 4.3-mile segment between the Waika‘ea Canal in Kapa‘a to Ahihi Point.

The segment is part of the county’s proposed 16-plus mile coastal pathway.

The first segment — a little more than 2 miles — at Lyd-gate Park is completed and in use.

A small portion south of Kealia Beach, where some of the pavilions stand, is in use as well.

Getting to the bare bones of the issue, Rapozo said the county administration blatantly did not follow the process and may encourage average citizens to break the law.

“The county has set the precedent with the case,” he said.

Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, a retired county prosecutor, said whether the county or a private landowner puts up an unpermitted structure on the coastline, both are violating the law.

“The lady of justice is blind,” she said.

And even if the county says the violation was not deliberate, the county is guilty of negligence.

Councilman Tim Bynum said nobody “chose to violate” the permit conditions, that a mistake was made, that “someone should have said the SMA doesn’t allow for roofs (on the six rest areas),” and that resolution of the issues rests with the planning commission.

Fujimoto and other county officials have maintained the work was done in accordance with government-approved plans.

But Iseri-Cavalho said the way the county administration has provided information has raised questions about its integrity.

She said county officials reported the administration had submitted the SMA amendment application at about the time of a recent and previous council meeting.

“But I knew that was not the case, as I had spoken with the Planning Commission,” she said.

County officials said the application was sent last Friday and was officially accepted by the Planning Department on Tuesday.

The Planning Department will decide whether to administratively issue the permits or push the matter to the commission, which will hold a public hearing, before making a decision.

If anything, there was no attempt to delude the council, as the exchange of information between Jas Glover, the contractor, and the county “was the thing that worked back and forth,” Fujimoto said.

While Glover had the responsibility of providing the information for the application, the Public Works Department, which filed the original SMA application for coastline work that was indirectly related to the six rest areas, has the obligation of submitting the amended SMA application, Fujimoto said.

“Some of the information took some time,” he said. “Planning (department) wanted to see how the shoreline certification related to all areas of the variance,” he said.

Rapozo said the council has followed sound government practices by demanding the administration follow the process.

Rapozo said he took issue with a radio broadcast criticizing some council members, including himself, for “stalling the project.” That characterization is not accurate by any means, he said.

“The perception out in the public is not accurate,” Rapozo said. “It is the process that needs to be done.”

The question of whether the county has a valid Conservation District Use Application for the rest areas should be of grave concern to officials, councilman Ron Kouchi said.

The county received the CDUA in March 2005, and was to have completed the work by March 2007, Iseri-Carvalho has said.

But with the halting of work due to the concerns about the project, the county will not make that deadline, making the CDUA null and void, she said.

Echoing sentiments by Rapozo, Kouchi asked how the county can ask the planning commission to process the SMA amendment request without having now “a new CDUA permit?”

Haigh said the design planner is in discussion with the DLNR and plans to have the CDUA permit extended, adding the state agency approved construction plans for the project, including areas that are in the permit.

Only two of the rest areas are within the CDUA district, Fujimoto has said.

Councilman Jay Furfaro also said the county may not secure additional federal grant funds for the pathway project by not getting the appraisal for Kauai Lagoons’ land behind the airport on which parts of the project would be built.

As long as more federal funds are available, the county can use the appraisal to leverage more federal dollars for the project. “We don’t want to get to the point where we end up with a negative checkbook,” Furfaro said.

To date, the county has used some $12 million of $35 million in federal funds for two project phases.

Council chairman Kaipo Asing condemned any plans for a concrete wall to be put up by the Wailua Golf Course phase of the path — the third — which includes the Hanama‘ulu coastline and areas by the golf course.

“It is flat now, and you can see the golf course now,” Asing said. “You are going to put a 6-foot (high) wall along the highway there. You aren’t going to get my support.”

Haigh said the design of the wall has not been selected and that there are ways to build it so it doesn’t look like a wall.

Asing said even if the wall were painted green to blend in with vegetation, it would still be visual blight.

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

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