‘Public road’ claim

The mayor of Kauai says he just
wants to assure beach access

LIHUE » Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste is misinterpreting a report by concluding there is public access to Papaa Bay across property owned by Hollywood film mogul Peter Guber, Guber's lawyer said yesterday.

map Baptiste's statement Thursday that the property includes a public road is not supported by the facts and conclusions in the report, said Guber's Honolulu attorney Paul Alston.

During the past two years, the question of public access to Papaa Bay has become a cause for beach-access advocates -- a coalition of environmentalists and Hawaiian-sovereignty activists -- on Kauai. The bay is considered one of the most beautiful on the island, and the only public access is a boulder-strewn trail along the beach starting several miles away.

Guber, former head of Columbia Pictures and one of Hollywood's most successful producers, has contended there is no public right of way across his Mandalay Ranch property, which he bought in 1998.

"The mayor is not reading the report correctly," Alston said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Alston also contended there are factual and legal errors in the report, prepared for the county by Big Island attorney Michael Matsukawa.

Alston said his office would issue a detailed response soon.

Matsukawa's report concludes that while there are mentions of a government road on the property in documents dating 150 years ago, there are no maps or surveys showing the exact location of the road.

Alston said there is no argument that a short piece of public road enters the property. Two years ago, Guber tried to buy the piece of road from Kauai County. But the roadway beyond that point is nothing more than a driveway built by Charles A. Rice, who owned the property in the 1930s.

"Charlie Rice had a driveway that went beyond the property boundaries onto his land. That's all that's there," Alston said.

A lawsuit filed in 1931 and settled in 1932 over the ownership of much of northeastern Kauai "defined Papaa Road, and it does not cross the property," Alston said. "It ends right where Mr. Guber says it ends. Beyond that, there is no record or document that says otherwise."

Both the county report and Alston agreed on two points: The public should not use the existing road across Guber's property until it is determined who owns it, and that determination might require a lawsuit.

The mayor did not indicate any desire to take Guber to court over the matter.

"The exact location isn't as important in my mind; it is getting public access for the people," Baptiste said Thursday.

But he did not say the county would fight to have the access route defined.

The property reportedly has been sold and is in escrow. The sale has been delayed by the legal dispute over beach access.


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