Friday, June 25, 1999

reached in Kauai beach
development dispute

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- An often tumultuous nine-month battle between an environmental group consisting of two Kauai women vs. a mega-developer with total support from the island's mayor ended yesterday when the developer backed down in the face of a lawsuit.

Kealia Plantation Co., which is developing 28 upscale residential lots on 313 acres of former Amfac/JMB sugar land along a bluff between Kealia Beach and Donkey Beach, agreed to place the home sites so that they can't be seen from the shoreline.

In return, Friends of Donkey Beach agreed to drop its lawsuit and not to sue them anymore.

Donkey Beach is a secluded area on Kauai's east shore reached only by trespassing on a trail across private land. Partly because it's so inconvenient for police to patrol it, Donkey Beach has become popular as a nude beach frequented by gay couples.

Friends of Donkey Beach consists of Marge Freeman and Judy Dalton, also president of the Kauai chapter of the Sierra Club. But dozens of members of the island's environmental community testified in support at hearings.

The pair started fighting the subdivision last fall and steadily lost ground until they enlisted David Kimo Frankel, until recently the Sierra Club's executive director for Hawaii. On April 23, Frankel filed a lawsuit against Kealia Plantation and the county alleging numerous violations of state and county laws.

The managing partners of Kealia Plantation are Justin and Michele Hughes who divide their time between their home in Tiburon, Calif., and Kauai. They have headed other projects in resort areas such as Aspen, Colo.

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka became the project's biggest booster, hosting a news conference with Michele Hughes.

The project includes a donation of 53 shoreline acres for a park, which Kusaka likes. Freeman and Dalton also like the donation but objected to placing homes on the bluff above it where they would be visible from the park.

At the time of the lawsuit, Kealia Plantation already had won special management area permits from the Planning Commission but still needed subdivision approval.

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