POSTED: 13 FEBRUARY 2008 - 9:00am HST

Commission tables Moloaa Ranch decision

image above: GoogleEarth view of MBR ranch hilltop. Note deforestation of site and illegal reservoir
as well as route of mudslide if it fails. Previous mudslides on site reached ocean. Click to enlarge.

by Nathan Eagle on 13 February 2008 in The Garden Island News

Representatives from both sides of a North Shore land use debate took turns reacting to the county Planning Commission with dropped jaws, scoffs, hand-waving and head-shaking, yesterday, at the Mo‘ikeha Building.

The morning session stretched into the evening as commissioners grappled with how to handle an after-the-fact permit request for Moloa‘a Bay Ranch.After paying $44,000 in fines and publicly apologizing, the landowner wants to keep property improvements that were illegally constructed some six years ago.

The violation was to be resolved through an amended special management area use permit for an after-the-fact portion of a pond, pumphouse and rockwall.

The commissioners formed a general consensus on what they wanted to do — restore the environmentally sensitive land to its original state — but said they needed extra time to work out the kinks on how to go about it. The decision was tabled until the commission’s next meeting in two weeks.

Aside from pulling out the structures, the commissioners got stuck on conditions in the permit that would let Moloa‘a Bay Ranch plant naupaka on the mauka side of a historic coastal trail in order to delineate the path and deter trespassing.

The landowner, part-time Kaua‘i resident Tom McCloskey, has scrapped plans to remove ironwood trees, build a perimeter fence and grade portions of the property.
“We’re going around in circles,” Moloa‘a Bay Ranch’s attorney, Bill Tam, told the commissioners.

The developer initially sought to build a wooden fence along the trail, which skirts the scenic bay, but replaced that plan with hedge planting after the public protested.

The commission voted against the naupaka border at one point in the meeting, then reversed its decision.

At another point in the session, commissioners said their intention was to have the landowner place signs along the path and then if that fails to keep hikers guided, allow the fence.

“Why are we going through this routine?” Tam said. “We have squatters. We have garbage.”

Later, the commission went back to the naupaka, approving a condition that requires it to be planted at least 5 to 10 feet mauka of the trail and be maintained at a height of less than 4 feet.

But before any planting can occur, the condition requires the landowner to return to the commission and prove there is a need for such a barrier between the private and public property.

“It’s ridiculous to spend the time doing it,” Tam said, noting 45 photos that show people trespassing and conducting other illegal activities on Moloa‘a Bay Ranch.
“You have to keep the people on the trail. Signage doesn’t work,” county planner Michael Laureta said.

Even the approved permits seemed questionable near the close of the discussion on this agenda item.

Laureta asked the commission if there was still a need for the permit since all the proposed uses were withdrawn or demanded to be removed.

The county in 2001 cited Moloa‘a Bay Ranch in part for not having permits to build a 560,000-gallon agricultural irrigation pond that straddles environmentally sensitive land protected under state law.

This “hole in the ground the size of a swimming pool,” Tam said, is significantly safer than required by law.

But Commissioner Ted Daligdig said the issue is not whether it meets the county engineer’s approval, “the point is it’s after the fact.”

Where the county in the past has forced small landowners to remove unpermitted structures, he said, the Planning Department is now recommending this big developer leave these improvements in place.

“This is a huge landowner. They should know better,” said Daligdig, who has served five years on the commission. “We have not kept the same standard with smaller landowners.”

Commissioner Sandi Kato-Klutke agreed.

“For them to have the audacity to build in an area outside of where they could ... it’s just blatant,” she said.

“If it was anybody else,” she added, they would have been severely fined and forced to remove the unpermitted structures.

Commission Chair Steve Weinstein said he would not have approved the pond that extends into the special management area.

“But just flushing the whole thing down the drain at this point would not solve it,” he said, noting his confidence in compromise.

Life-long Moloa‘a residents and environmental group leaders urged the commission to protect the sacred land.

After telling a story about growing up walking to work and school along the trail, 75-year-old Loke Perreira said preserving the path is important so the next generation may use it too. She later added that if forced to decide, naupaka would be preferable to a fence and signs.



POSTED: 13 FEBRUARY 2008 - 9:00am HST

McCloskey continues false trail claims

image above: Sierra Club GPS identified coastal trail route (C) mapped in 2006 mauka of MBR route

[Editor's Note: The Sierra Club of Kauai established that the Moloaa Bay Ranch  (MBR) claim that the historic Coastal Trail route was at the base of the cliffs along the rocks was not true, and identified where the trail was along the top of the cliffs using a GPS system to follow the worn path. The DLNR should have surveyed the path themselves, but rather than spend the money or energy, let the MBR do the survey. This has resulted in an incorrect alignment of the path favoring MBR properties.]

Hikers say historic trail has been moved
by Nathan Eagle on 9 February 2008 in The Garden Island News

While the county Planning Department and state agencies consider the alignment of a historic trail skirting Moloa‘a Bay “a done deal,” hikers and longtime residents insist the landowner has pushed the path makai of its traditional route.

Community members fighting to protect the path voiced their concerns at a county Planning Commission hearing last month, hoping officials will review the matter before voting Tuesday at the Mo‘ikeha Building on an after-the-fact permit for structures at Moloa‘a Bay Ranch.The Aspen-based company, owned by Tom McCloskey, has pending amended special management area permits for a portion of an irrigation pond, pumphouse and rockwall. The application also proposes planting naupaka on the mauka side of the coastal trail easement to delineate the property line.

County planner Michael Laureta’s report Wednesday says that the applicant has resolved the alignment and location of the coastal trail issue with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

But a January 22 letter to Planning Commission Chair Steven Weinstein from state Office of Hawaiian Affairs Administrator Clyde Namu‘o expresses concern over “the current and ongoing destruction of what is believed to be components of an ancient trail, associated with constitutionally protected traditional and customary Native Hawaiian practices for religious and subsistence use in the Moloa‘a region.”

The state office says it has not been properly consulted regarding the identification, significance assessment and mitigation of the path, a piece of Hawaiian history and culture.

It would be “negligent in upholding the public trust” if the commission fails to intervene, the letter states.

The Planning Department report says Hawaiian gathering rights were addressed in a limited cultural impact assessment, which was included in a final environmental assessment that found “no significant impact.”

Residents born and raised on Kaua‘i, such as Lucia Laidlaw and Loke Perreira, told the commission at its January 22 public hearing that the trail as registered by the Board of Land and Natural Resources is inaccurate.

The surveyed path on the map does not match the historic trail Laidlaw said she recently hiked. In some segments, the registered route crosses a crumbly edge — not the pasture land her father and uncle traversed when transporting limu on the backs of donkeys.

“Moloa‘a means a lot,” Laidlaw said. “The memories hurt ... and the changes that I have seen and the response to proposed changes.”

Much of the traditional route is overgrown and there are indications that someone has intentionally pushed the path closer to the sea.

Andy Kass, an avid hiker from Kapa‘a, said he used a GPS tracking device to map the historic route in September 2005. He returned to walk the path on Friday and noticed several deviations from the original.

Kass found himself standing in overgrown foliage when he stood in the trail’s coordinates from two years ago. Several feet makai was a new path, he said, marked by signs posted by the property owner.

In one instance, he said, it seemed that sawed off tree branches had been dragged onto the historic path to open up another route closer to the coastline.
“Getting the landowner to recognize the original trail is paramount,” Kass said.
Moloa‘a Bay Ranch in its 2005 permit request sought to build a fence along the trail — running 10 feet from its edge — but has abandoned that plan in favor of a vegetation border.

Residents said at the public hearing that the irrigated property would cause the proposed naupaka to grow in a way that would infringe on the trail and disrupt an “incredible historic asset.”

It would take over, North Shore resident Caren Diamond said, noting the plant’s potential to spread 30 feet in a year and shoot 10 feet high with irrigation.
Attorney Bill Tam, representing Moloa‘a Bay Ranch, said the landowner is bound to an agreement to maintain the trail and this would include making sure the naupaka does not cross the path. The vegetation would help hikers stay guided, he added.

Moloa‘a Bay Ranch paid $19,000 to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and $25,000 to the county after the Planning Department in January 2001 cited it for making illegal improvements to the property.

“Frankly, we have to apologize to the Planning Department for our mistake,” Tam said.

Concerned about approving an after-the-fact permit, Commissioner Ted Daligdig said at the meeting that the county should require the landowner to re-apply because substantial changes were made to the application.

“It can’t just be Band-aided over like it is all the time,” resident Elaine Dunbar told the commission. “This is a recurring situation in Kaua‘i. This has got to stop.”
But Planning Department officials said Moloa‘a Bay Ranch is down-scaling its project and determined it need not re-apply.

“How hard do you want to swing the bat on these guys?” Laureta said, adding that the answer is up to the commission.

see also:
Island Breath: Moloaa Bay Ranch 3 7/26/06
Island Breath: Moloaa Bay Ranch 2 12/12/05
Island Breath: Moloaa Bay Ranch 1 10/8/05