County orders Sheehan to stop commercial activities

HANALEI — The County of Kaua‘i announced on Tuesday it has issued a notice of violation to a North Shore business owner, ordering him to stop conducting unpermitted activities on his Hanalei River property.

“The state and county are working together to develop sound rules to manage recreational and commercial activities in our beach parks and the surrounding waters,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said in a statement. “Enforcement is key to these efforts being successful. We are hopeful that with the issuance of this notice, the violations at the Hanalei River boatyard will cease.”

The notice directs Michael Sheehan, owner of Hanalei River Watersports and Hanalei River Enterprises, to cease and desist unpermitted activities at his boatyard on the south bank of the Hanalei River and to remove from the premises all associated equipment and temporary structures within 10 days or else face injunctions, penalties of up to $10,000 and civil fines of up to $500 per day.

“There are pre-existing permits, and there’s nothing more that Sheehan needs to obtain,” Sheehan’s attorney Richard Wilson said on Friday. “It’s purely political. There’s a very vocal minority that is anti-business, anti-boating and anti-Sheehan.”

“This matter concerns land-based staging and commercial activities not generally allowed under the (Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance) taking place on Sheehan’s now-unpermitted property that is clearly within the county’s (Special Management Area rules),” County Interim Planning Director Michael Dahilig said on Friday.

“(Sheehan) originally obtained permits to build a fully functioning boat yard,” Wilson said. “The master permits were revoked and that’s presently being appealed.”  

In 1987, Sheehan applied for and received a Special Management Area Permit, a Use Permit, a Special Permit and a Class IV Zoning Permit. The permits were subject to 13 conditions.

During May of last year, Kaua‘i Planning Commission voted unanimously to revoke 23-year-old permits for the boatyard.

Commissioners said Sheehan had violated several of the conditions of his temporary permits.

The violations included constructing non-permitted structures on the property, allowing new (non-permitted) tour-boat operators to use the site, allowing the launch and landing of commercial boats from the river side of the boatyard without permission, and failing to provide 100 parking stalls as required under the permit.

“(Sheehan’s) businesses were allowed to operate while the revocation was being appealed,” Dahilig said. “After Judge Watanabe issued her opinion, the county proceeded with legal action.”

The notice of violation states that upon receiving numerous complaints from community members, the Planning Department conducted field inspections in May and the first week of June, and found activities that are in violation of county ordinances.

Specifically, the notice cites: the establishment of commercial surfboard rental concession, commercial vendor trailer operations (the Sips of Paradise stand), the conduct of commercial tour boat operations and boatyard operations without requisite permits.

“This is really no different than what the county alleged in 2009, and we’ll go down that road again, I guess,” Wilson said. “They’ve got a group of very vocal anti-business, anti-establishment people that want to take Hanalei River back 500 years, when there was nothing there. They’re vocal, and they’ve got the mayor’s ear. We plan to operate. They can file a lawsuit or take whatever steps they want to take. We’ll address it at that time.”

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or by emailing


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