Kona horse owner to
wrangle with neighbors
in court

KAILUA-KONA >> Kona businessman Frank Fistes says he just wants to raise a few Arabian horses on his 1.5-acre property mauka of Kailua-Kona.

His neighbors in Kula Kai Estates subdivision sued to stop him. Although the subdivision is zoned for agriculture, it has covenants that ban farm animals, they say.

A non-jury trial of the case is set for tomorrow and Wednesday.

Fistes believes he's headed for victory because the Legislature passed a law last year saying covenants can't override state agricultural laws. A victory for him would be a victory for protecting the "right to farm" on agricultural lands, he says.

But the law is unclear on whether covenants created before the law are valid. Fistes' neighbor Charles Manning believes the subdivision's covenants should be enforced.

Attorneys for both sides declined to comment.

Fistes compares his case with the ruling involving the 1,550-acre Hokulia development south of Kailua-Kona, where a residential subdivision is being built on agricultural land.

Circuit Judge Ronald Ibarra last year ruled that the Hokulia development is an improper use of agricultural land.

Fistes has owned his land for 14 years. When new neighbors moved in three years ago, they knew he had animals.

"They sat on the wall and patted my horses," he said. He had six then, just one now.

Neighbor Manning said the horses were originally on property adjoining Kula Kai. When Fistes moved the horses onto his subdivision lot, manure smell and flies became a problem, Manning said.

Fistes moved the animals to the other side of his lot, away from Manning. "Frank and I got along just fine," Manning said.

But the community association sued to enforce the covenants banning farm animals.

Those covenants may be illegal. Overriding a veto by the governor, the Legislature passed a law last year that says no "private agreement" can overturn agricultural uses on land classified as agricultural.

The measure was originated by Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser, responding to problems facing Aliomanu Estates farmer John Wooten among others.

In 2001, relying on covenants, the Aliomanu homeowners association ordered Wooten to cut windbreak trees, threatening his fruit and vegetable crops. Wooten escaped the demand on a technicality, but other Aliomanu farmers still face threats, he said.

Wooten said that just because Aliomanu and Kula Kai covenants were written before Hooser's 2003 law doesn't make them legal. "Unwitting buyers just sign them, but they're not reviewed for their legality," he said.


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