LIHUE — The fine was cut in half.
The state Land Board reached a settlement with Hawaii Public Utilities Chair Hermina Morita and her husband Lance Laney over the bed and breakfast the couple illegally built and operated for more than a decade in Hanalei.
“The board settled the matter with Mr. Laney … to avoid further litigation and reduce further enforcement costs,” the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands wrote in an email.
In late May, following an investigation by DLNR staff into allegations that the couple operated the North Shore getaway Taro Patch Hale in a state conservation district without permission, the state Land Board issued $31,000 in fines and ordered the landowners to completely remove the two rental cottages — named Lii Cottage and Nui Cottage — and “discontinue all commercial activity” on the property.
A decision and order Dec. 12, however, lowered the fine to $15,000. It was reached during a contested case hearing process. The couple has 90 days to pay the fine and tear down the two rental cottages, according to the terms of the settlement.
OCCL called the outcome a success for the community.
“It stops the illegal vacation rentals, requires removal of two structures, and the department will receive a $15,000 fine,” the office wrote.
Morita, Laney and their attorney Harold Bronstein, who requested the contested case hearing following the board’s decision in May, didn’t return messages for comment.
Taro Patch Hale is on a 3.18-acre parcel within the State Land Use Conservation District Protective Subzone, at the end of Ohiki Road, on Kauai’s North Shore.
The Garden Island reported March 11 about the state’s investigation after obtaining documents written by OCCL. In a Dec. 16 letter addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Laney, BLNR Chair William Aila outlined the state’s allegations.
In addition to the fines and cottage removal, the settlement requires Morita and Laney to apply for a site plan approval for the large garage on the parcel within 90 days.
Morita was chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee from 1999 until 2011, when Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed her as PUC chair. She is the first-ever female chair of the PUC.
Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.