She halted development that would have blocked beach access on Maui


POSTED: Tuesday, December 23, 2008

PAIA, Maui » In the country town of Paia, she is a rural legend.







This year's choices:



        Manti Te'o, Punahou football star

Christina “;Uma”; Hemming fought against the county and a developer and won.

The beneficiaries of the victory will be the people who use the coastline from Paia to Baldwin Beach.

“;She's an amazing person,”; said Hannah Bernard, president of the nonprofit Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

“;I really appreciate individuals like her who take on tasks and put their money where their mouth is. ... It's an amazing thing for a person to do.”;

Friends said Hemming was tenacious and pursued stopping the development, despite personal criticisms and monetary losses.

“;It's a huge thing to take on a lawsuit,”; Bernard said.

Jan Roberson, executive committee chairwoman for the Surfrider Foundation on Maui, said her group applauds Hemming's successful effort to maintain lateral access to Maui's shoreline.

“;The shoreline and access to it is irreplaceable,”; Roberson said.

Hemming, who works as a massage therapist, found out that a developer had received a minor coastal management permit from a county planning director to build condominium houses along the shoreline between Paia and Baldwin Beach.

The development would have blocked lateral access to the coastline and also prevented shoreline fishing.

As someone who had lived on the East Coast, Hemming had seen what happens when luxury homes are built along a shoreline and prevent former residents from enjoying coastal recreation.

“;I just felt it wasn't right on Maui,”; Hemming said in an earlier interview. “;I thought if the kids can't walk from Paia Bay to Baldwin Beach, it's just going to create more alienation, more segregation.”;

She began researching and testifying at numerous public meetings before the Planning Commission and Maui County Council.

When no one would take up the cause, she enlisted the assistance of attorney Isaac Hall and took legal action, using her own money to stop the developer.

The county eventually reversed its decision about the exemption and moved to buy the parcels.

Hemming's years-long fight led Maui County to purchase the parcel known as Montana Beach Condominiums for public beach use.

The Maui County Council authorized the purchase of the final part of a 5-acre parcel in January.

The Council decided to authorize the payment of $85,000 to Hemming and the Hawaiian group Hui Alanui o Makena for attorneys' fees and court costs.

Daniel Sullivan, president of the Paia Merchants Association, said Hemming's efforts have benefited the community and merchants along the North Shore of Maui by maintaining the shoreline's character.

“;It's really important to keep it open,”; Sullivan said. “;Part of keeping the character of the North Shore is keeping the character of the beaches intact.”;