State postpones auction for Kokee State Park cabins
Those looking to buy a quiet vacation place in one of Kauai's most beautiful state parks will have to wait awhile, state officials said recently.
An auction of 100 privately held cabins in Kokee State Park, originally scheduled for September, will be put off at least until next year, thanks to a Kauai court decision last month.
And those holding on to their rustic cabins might be able to enjoy them for a while longer, when a decision to issue revocable permits to current leaseholders comes up at Friday's Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting.
"We didn't want to get to a situation where the leases expire and then people didn't have a right to stay on their property," said Peter Young, chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
"While the issue is being resolved in the courts, we're going to let them stay," he said.
At stake are leases of the land under about 100 cabins, 60 of which are designated for historical designation, in wooded Kokee in mauka Kauai. The area, which features hiking trails, fishing areas and native flora and fauna, marks one of the few accessible areas to the inland mountain regions of the Garden Isle.
Frank Hay, president of the Kokee Cabin Leaseholders Association and one of the leaseholders suing the state, said he just wants the opportunity to stay in the cabin he has had for 30 years. If that is not possible, he said, he would like to be compensated for the cabin and the improvements he has made.
Hay said he bought the cabin in 1975 and then negotiated a lease with the state, first in 1975 and again in 1985. The lease ran out at the end of 2005, but the board extended the leases until Dec. 31, 2006.
According to the lawsuit filed on his behalf, Hay and the other leaseholders say they are entitled to compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
But Young said the leases clearly state that any improvements revert to the state when they expire.
A Kauai judge ruled last month that the decision on compensation would have to be made at trial, killing the chances for a September auction.
Hay said he and his fellow leaseholders are not wealthy. Many are local and kamaaina families who care for the land and want to preserve the beauty of Kokee.
The leaseholders first petitioned the Legislature to include areas like Kokee for historical preservation. Then they petitioned the area to be included as a historic district.
They thought that the preservation would lead to direct negotiations with the state for a new lease on the 60 historic cabins, with the 40 newer ones to be auctioned to the public, Hay said.
The Land Board, however, decided in February to auction off all the properties, except for a few run by nonprofit organizations.
Young said the board received a number of requests to put all the cabins up for auction, "so they have a chance."
But many of them believe that opening up the auction will allow speculators to drive up the prices of the cabins.