LIHU‘E — An application to bring permitting compliance to the Longman Jiu-Jitsu Academy and add a juice bar to the Kilauea Old Mill Building brought dozens of testifiers out to a county Planning Commission meeting earlier this month.
But issues regarding the advertisement of the hearing on March 9 led to a deferral of the two-pronged application until May.
The Oka Street property has several small businesses in the warehouse and the Old Mill Building, which is where the Jiu-Jitsu Academy, owned by Bruno Ewald, is housed. Recreational classes are not an allowed use in the limited-industrial district, hence the request for approval.
The second part of the application requested to build a take-out juice bar in the space first approved for a physical-therapy and wellness center.
Ewald, who has used the property for a decade, said he’s been able to help hundreds of children through his school, and simply wished to be in compliance.
“I believe my intention is to be in code with the county and the state, the reason for my application for the academy to be legal,” Ewald said.
Some public testimony objected to the juice bar, citing its commercial use. However, many community residents, including those who have either attended classes or enroll their children in jiu-jitsu, supported the application.
“Bruno’s school and personal guidance and teaching has helped shape my life in many ways, as well as given me opportunities that I otherwise would have never been able to obtain on my own,” Liyna Cardinal wrote in testimony. “As long as I can remember, the location that he is currently at has always been a place of business, and should continue to be so, serving the community.”
But despite the oral and written testimony in support of the academy, as well as the Planning Department’s Feb. 12 report recommending the commission approve the zoning permits, the hearing was deferred for two months.
During the March meeting, Peter Morimoto, an attorney representing Jim and Shelly Spencer, raised several objections, the first that the commission violated its own rules in providing inadequate notice of the hearing.
The advertisement for the meeting listed the Old Kilauea Mill item as a public hearing, rather than an agency hearing.
“In other words, the public-hearing notice misleads the reader into thinking that the Planning Commission is only soliciting the general public’s input, when in reality the Planning Commission will be engaging in decision-making on the projects,” Morimoto wrote. “This is inadequate notice to the people who will be directly impacted by the development and is a violation of their right to due process.”
Planning Department Director Ka‘aina Hull called it a “small caveat” in wording, but warned the commission of issues down the line, and asked the department not present its report that was published with the meeting agenda.
“A year from now, litigation could essentially unravel this whole thing based on the notion of the term ‘public hearing’ being used rather than ‘agency hearing,’” Hull said.
The commission will be reissuing an agency-hearing advertisement for its May 11 meeting.
Among other issues, Morimoto said the public testimony portion of the meeting could be clearer, that the department should hold off on publishing a recommendation until after the agency hearing, and took issue with a potential conflict of interest with chair of the commission, Donna Apisa, being a member of the Kilauea Old Mill, LLC. Apisa but did not attend the meeting, and did intend to recuse herself from the item, Hull said.
Hull explained that the department has held the property to the same standard as others, and suggested that part of the reason there’s been no enforcement or shutdown of the academy is due to the fact that there have been no complaints that required the zoning inspector to go out.
An agency hearing for the Kilauea Old Mill site was deferred unanimously by the commission to May. The commission will meet next on April 13 via teleconference.