Sheehan to county: Don’t waste money fighting me in court

NAWILIWILI — The Kaua‘i County Council had to suspend its consideration of a request to spend $75,000 on outside legal counsel for its case against Michael Sheehan regarding alleged permit violations in the operation of his Hanalei boatyard.

The decision was postponed Wednesday due to an error in switching the injunction case number with the civil condemnation report number. Council members voted to wait until the technical issues are resolved before any discussion and action.

County Attorney Al Castillo Jr. filed the civil complaint against Sheehan on behalf of the county and the Planning Commission on Aug. 25 in Fifth Circuit Court. His office asked council to approve the expense needed to hire outside legal counsel.

The case alleges a Declination of Judgment of past orders against Sheehan’s companies and those doing business on his property. It is a long-standing dispute. The indictment names Hanalei River Enterprises, Inc., Hanalei River Watersports, Inc., Hanalei By The River Management, LLC, Hanalei By The River, LLC, Blue Dolphin Charters, LTD, Sips Of Paradise and Kaua‘i Boat Enterprises, LLC (aka Bali Hai Charters).

Sheehan was present at the meeting and said the revocation of his boatyard operating permits is a declaratory judgment and a “backdoor way” of condemning his property. He said it affirms his federal takings claim that was missing in his 1993 suit against the county.

“This operation of the Planning Commission and this lawsuit is the final taking,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan, who said he would never own a boatyard on the Hanalei River again, suggested his case was strong and that the county might spend many times the $75,000 for the legal battle and a potential damage award.

“Being forewarned is being forearmed,” said Sheehan, asking the council to negotiate with him before going to court.

“I am very concerned about the expense of taxpayers’ money on this continuing.”

Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura said the two-week delay might be put to use as an opportunity for dialogue between Sheehan and the county attorneys.

She said the discussion might result in negotiations for the acquisition of the lands rather than allocating the funds for the legal fight.

“That is the best policy and approach for the county to take with respect to the future of Black Pot Beach Park and recreation opportunities of our people,” Yukimura said.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously in May 2010 to revoke permits that Sheehan had used to operate his boatyard since 1987.

The commission reported that its investigation could show cause and met the burden of proof.

The report claimed Sheehan had violated conditions of his Special Management Area Use and Class IV Zoning permits. It alleged violations of non-permitted construction and tour boat operations, launching and landing of commercial boats, and inadequate parking.

The commission said its authority was based on a presumed understanding that revocation of permits is allowed in circumstances when there is no need for a facility or when unforeseen problems at the time the permits were granted are realized.

It claimed revocation is also allowed when the Department of Transportation develops long-range plans to accommodate commercial tour boat operations at another location.

Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. commended the commission report in a press release, saying the Hanalei Black Pot recreation area is a treasure to be preserved and should be managed responsibly for all residents and visitors.

He said the next phase is to create a master plan for the area in partnership with the state and community.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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