Council approves Kukuiula Bay easement; administration does not support

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council voted Wednesday to approve an access easement in Koloa.

The council voted 6 to 1 to acquire a 6-foot drainage easement at Kukuiula Bay, across the street from the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

The proposed acquisition is coming at the request of the Open Space Commission, who said people can no longer access the area without going onto private property.

Tessie Kinnaman, who lives on the Southside, said gaining the access is important for the community.

“This is a natural resource that belongs to the people,” she said.

Councilmembers Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Ross Kagawa, Derek Kawakami, JoAnn Yukimura and Mel Rapozo voted to approve the request.

Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro was the dissenting vote.

“When this issue came up the first time, we heard a lot from both sides. This time, we haven’t heard much on it,” he said. “I would have liked to heard another crack on it from the community.”

Kaneshiro said he’s worried that if access is granted, it will become crowded and overrun, and the fishermen who use it will lose their place.

“When you have a special place, you try not to make a big trail, and show everybody where it is,” he said. “So that’s what I’m fighting with right now. If we open it up, will the fishermen get the access they want?”

The easement is between two beachfront homes on Kukuiula Bay.

While the county has the authority of the easement for drainage purposes, the parcel itself is owned by a private landowner, who does not want to sell.

Because the landowner does not want to sell, the county will have to go through the condemnation process, which can be expensive.

That’s the reason the administration does not support the acquisition, said Ka’aina Hull, deputy planning director.

“It is an adversarial action that requires litigation potentially,” he said. “The appraisal number is not in any means of what it’s going to cost us. At the end of the day, the jury is going to award higher than that and much higher than that.”

“The County Attorney’s Office advises against it at this time because an adversarial condemnation is avoidable,” said Mauna Kea Trask, county attorney. “This county cannot avoid all the other suits brought against it.”

For example, the office is in the middle of 17 transient vacation rental contested cases, he said.

The assessed value of the land is about $200,000. But the cost of acquiring the land via condemnation includes attorney fees, so the final price would be closer to about $1 million.

Rapozo said he’s received communication from the administration that Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. will veto the resolution if the council passes it.

Rapozo, who was going to vote against it to avoid going through the motions of a veto, had a change of heart.

“We’re losing this island,” he said. “If we’re going to use cost as a reason, we’ll never get back the accesses we have lost. The cost of our inaction today will be far greater than the cost of the acquisition.”

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