Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Court order blocks sale
of Kauai radio tower

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- A Chicago company that provided part of the financing for the controversial 250-foot radio tower atop Haupu Ridge has slapped a writ of attachment on the structure.

The federal court order prevents the owner from selling the tower. It was obtained by Prime Leasing Inc., which earlier this month sued Stangl Broadcasting Inc., owner Bruce Casey Stangl and The Tower Company of Reno, Nev., which bought the tower from Stangl.

In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, Prime Leasing contends Stangl has defaulted on a $105,398 loan to build the antenna atop the tower.

"The attachment is just to assure payment if my clients prevail, which I'm sure they will," said Honolulu attorney Robert Smolenski, who represents Prime Leasing. Smolenski said he sought the writ after he was unable to find Stangl or any officials of The Tower Company to serve the lawsuit. Stangl moved to the mainland last year after sending a letter to the news media saying he had lost all his money and had been mistreated by state and Kauai officials.

Haupu Ridge is the dramatic mountain range that divides the county seat in Lihue from the resort district in Poipu. The completed tower is clearly visible on the skyline from both areas.

In 1996, the state Land Board granted Stangl permission to build the tower. Stangl already had obtained permits from the Federal Communications Commission to build and operate two radio transmitters.

The Land Board meeting had been properly noticed in legal advertisements but no one from Kauai objected. After the decision, however, a coalition of Kauai groups not normally united -- including business leaders, environmentalists, native Hawaiians and the state's congressional delegation -- came out against construction of the tower.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs filed an appeal with the FCC, claiming Haupu Ridge plays a major role in Hawaiian mythology and contains important religious sites.

While the OHA appeal was pending, Stangl completed construction of the tower and shortly afterward announced he had sold it to The Tower Company. He sold the rights to the two transmitters to Visionary Related Entertainment of Maui. Last summer, the FCC rejected OHA's appeal.

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