COURTESY FRANK HAY
Lawmakers have passed a bill that allows cabin lease owners at Kokee, Kauai, to negotiate directly with the state for lease renewal, preventing the leases from going out to auction. That circumvents a court ruling in favor of the state last year.
Bill tackles Kokee cabins flap
The measure would let leaseholders deal directly with the state over park structures
LIHUE » A bill passed last week by the state Legislature aims to end long-standing controversies about Kokee State Park in Kauai's mountainous interior.
The measure, HB 2872, allows current leaseholders of state land in Kokee to negotiate directly with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for the renewal of their leases.
The issue has been a topic of heated debate in some form or another since at least 1985.
The parcels hold cabins that in many cases have been used as getaway retreats by the leaseholders for generations.
Many of the cabins date back 80 to 100 years and have remained in the same families. They can be used only as second homes and cannot be rented out as vacation rentals.
The state argued, however, that the 1985 leases clearly stated that the cabins were to be turned over to the state in 2005.
But the cabin leaseholders sued the state in 2006 when the DLNR moved to auction the cabins.
The leaseholders argued that while they paid for the land underneath the cabins, they owned the cabins, for which they paid taxes and spent money on improvements.
The state won in Lihue Circuit Court, but the DLNR has not made a move to auction off the properties until the appeal is heard, which could take years.
The measure is now awaiting Gov. Linda Lingle's signature.
The bill is "completely consistent with the verdict in the case," said Deputy Attorney General William Wynhoff, the lead state attorney in the case.
The new law will, at least, allow a number of empty lots and vacant cabins to be auctioned off, while those still paying the state for the leases will be able to sign another long-term lease, paying both for the land and the cabins.
"The state's position is that the state still owns the cabins," said state Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai).
But the "compromise" bill allows the current leaseholders, many of whom donate and volunteer in the state parks, to remain in their historical cabins and keep them as a resource, Hooser added.
The bill also gives Kauai residents first shot at the cabins and vacant lots going up for bid, eliminating a fear of out-of-state speculation in the area.
Frank Hay, president of the Kokee Leaseholders Association, said the bill is "a substantial and positive step forward for historical preservation in Hawaii."
The cabins, one of Hawaii's last board-and-batten communities, are a cultural resource for all people of Hawaii, and the bill allows historical properties to remain intact, Hay added.
In 1985, after the land auction, a number of the leaseholders could not agree with the cabin owners on a price, and dozens of cabins, some dating back to the 1870s, became scrap plywood.
"This is an intelligent bill," Hay continued, ensuring "another community in Hawaii is preserved."
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
A bill passed by the state Legislature last week regarding cabins in Kokee State Park would not render moot a civil court case regarding the cabins. Originally, this story incorrectly said that it would.