Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Beach group sues
Kauai planners,

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- The Kauai Planning Commission and a developer planning to build luxury homes atop a bluff overlooking the ocean in east Kauai have been sued by an environmental group.

Friends of Donkey Beach, which filed the suit, lost a protracted battle before the commission in an effort to force Kealia Plantation Co. to build the planned homes far enough back from the bluff so they could not be seen from a county park adjoining the beach.

Ironically, the 53-acre park was a gift from Kealia Plantation to the county and has been termed the largest donation of its kind in state history.

At commission hearings, Friends of Donkey Beach founders Marge Freeman and Judy Dalton said repeatedly they did not want to halt construction of the homes. They said they just didn't want to have to look at them.

The lawsuit they filed Friday, however, calls for an injunction against any development.

At issue is the development of 313 acres of land between Kealia Beach and Donkey Beach, mauka of Kuhio Highway. It's part of 6,700 acres purchased last year from Amfac/JMB Hawaii by Justin and Michele Hughes of Tiburon, Calif.

None of the proposed homesites are in the special management area, but portions of several of the lots are, so a special management area permit was requested. It was granted by the Kauai Planning Commission on Feb. 25.

The lawsuit claims that the planning commission violated a state law that required it to make specific findings that the project poses no harm to the ecology or cultural, historic, aesthetic, recreational, scenic or open-space values.

It also accuses the commission of ignoring another state law that says when an activity is part of a larger project, "the cumulative impact" of the entire development must be considered.

Kealia Plantation representatives responded at the hearings that detailed plans have not been adopted for the remainder of the parcel.

Much of the land is under lease for sugar production.

Finally, the suit claims Kealia Plantation's plans to sell the homesites as agricultural land for what would be classified as farm dwellings violates a state law requiring agricultural land to remain in agriculture.

The suit asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order to halt development of the land and ultimately to throw out the special management area permit.

An attorney for Kealia Plantation said the company has not been served with the suit and could not comment on it.

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