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State, county try to resolve Kahauloa Road squabble

March 20, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — An overlap of state and county jurisdiction is contributing to a continuing controversy between Kahauloa Road residents and kayak rental operators who use the boat ramp into Kealakekua Bay at the end of the road.

The kayak operators increased their use of the boat ramp after the state Department of Land and Natural Resources first closed the wharf at Napoopoo Beach Park and then restricted its use to three commercial kayak tour companies. The self-guided kayak companies were not granted landing permits to use the wharf or land at nearby Kaawaloa Flat, which is located across the bay near the Captain Cook Monument.

“The road is narrow, and it’s just real popular with people,” said kayak operator Rocky Veriato, with Bay Side Adventures. “They took us away from the pier. … They put us pretty much in the middle of the community.”

The county in 2015 established no parking zones along Kahauloa Road to help alleviate some of the problems, such as noise from early morning vehicles unloading kayaks, blockage of driveways and too much traffic, voiced by residents. But unnamed homeowners, through their attorney Loren Seehase of the Honolulu law firm Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, say more needs to be done.

“The residents of Kahauloa Road have endured rampant unregulated commercial activity that overwhelms the capacity of the small, one lane residential road, inhibits passage along the road, threatens the public health and safety, and damages the environment,” Seehase said in a Feb. 7 letter to Mayor Harry Kim. “For over three years the residents of Kahauloa Road have in effect been held hostage by illegal commercial activity occurring on their street and in their yards.”

Seehase declined further comment in a telephone call Friday.

“Our clients — residents who wish to remain anonymous for safety reasons — have endured great physical and mental anguish as a result,” she added in the letter.

Kim said Friday that the county is working on a solution.

“We’re in the beginning phase of trying to make some resolution to make it better,” he said.

County officials met March 8 with officials from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to try to determine the best course of action. Deputy Corporation Counsel Amy Self said one of the problems is that the state controls the land makai of the shoreline and the county controls the land mauka.

“The state and the county have to work together on this because of jurisdictional issues,” Self said.

That’s not good enough for the homeowners, who, through their attorney, are putting the county on notice.

“The bottom line is the violators must be penalized and all commercial activity on Kahauloa Road must cease immediately and permanently,” the letter said.

Kayak vendors are frustrated as well. They have valid state operating permits, carry $2 million in insurance bonds and meet the state requirements to ply their trade, several said Friday.

DLNR spokesmen were unable to provide a response by press time Friday.

“It’s like going to your mom for permission for one thing and getting it and then going to your dad for permission for the other thing,” said Von Rangstrom, owner of Hawaii Kayak Adventures.

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