Court finds county lapse in Hokulia case
KAILUA-KONA » The state Supreme Court has ruled that Hawaii County has a duty to protect coastal waters around the island, attorney Robert Kim said.
Hawaii County argued unsuccessfully that protection of coastal waters was solely the responsibility of the state.
The recent ruling came in response to an appeal regarding part of a complex case dealing with the 1,550-acre residential development Hokulia in Kona. Kim represents several of the plaintiffs in the case.
Primary public interest had focused on a court ruling that Hokulia was an urban project being improperly developed on agricultural land. That and other aspects of the case were settled this spring.
Still pending was an aspect that touched off the original Hokulia lawsuit, a substantial runoff of muddy water into the ocean on Sept. 8-9, 2000, causing damage to coral reefs.
The county had given Hokulia developer 1250 Oceanside Partners a permit called a variance to grade 20 or more acres at a time, when normally the maximum acres that can be cleared is five at a time, Kim said. The larger amount of bare land was more susceptible to rainwater runoff, he said.
The Supreme Court affirmed that the state has a duty to protect shoreline waters, and the duty extends to Hawaii County and other counties that are political subdivisions of the state.
The ruling does not impose any monetary payments on the county, but it gives notice that payment for damages could result from comparable future lawsuits, Kim said.