The Maui News | June 27, 2019
By COLLEEN UECHI, Assistant City Editor
Lawsuits claim trails not being maintained per permits
Red lines depict the public access trail to the shoreline fronting the Hale Mahina Beach Resort and the Hoyochi Nikko condominiums. Community groups had filed lawsuits against the condo complexes for obstructing or failing to maintain the beach access path as required by permit approvals. Last week, the two sides reached an agreement that includes requiring Hale Mahina to clear and maintain the beach access path. Map courtesy of Lance Collins
Community groups who sued three condominium complexes over beach access have reached a settlement with the final two condos that will restore a public access trail to the Napili shoreline.
Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula, a West Maui shoreline and Native Hawaiian practices protection group; the West Maui Preservation Association; and West Maui watermen Archie Kalepa and Kanamu Balinbin filed individual lawsuits against three condo complexes in January 2018.
The plaintiffs claimed that Napili Point II, Hale Mahina Beach Resort and Hoyochi Nikko were obstructing access or failing to maintain access routes as required by permit approvals. They said this was preventing the public from accessing the shoreline for fishing, recreation and other traditional uses.
In April, the plaintiffs reached a settlement with Napili Point II that restored access to Honokeana Bay through “Fisherman’s Trail,” the only shoreline access within the 2-mile stretch between Sands of Kahana and Napili Place.
During the approval of its special management area use permit, Napili Point II had been required to provide public pedestrian access to the shoreline through the long-established trail. However, Lance Collins, an attorney for the community groups, said last year that the trail had not been maintained and had become dangerous.
The settlement with the condo included restoring Fisherman’s Trail and putting no restrictions on the hours of use of the trail. It also prohibited barriers across the trail, unless required by the county and with the plaintiffs’ approval. And, the existing metal gate was required to stay unlocked at least from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Napili Point II must get plaintiffs’ approval before placing any signs near the trail or gate.
Last week, the parties reached a resolution with Hale Mahina and Hoyochi Nikko, as well as the Fujiwara family who owns the land below Hale Mahina. The plaintiffs’ complaint was that Hale Mahina was not maintaining a public beach access path on its property as required of its special management area permit, and that Hoyochi Nikko’s landscaping had crept across the pathway and further obscured access.
The settlement agreement with the condos included the following terms:
- Requiring Hale Mahina to clear and maintain a 3-foot-wide public access trail along the north edge of Hale Mahina’s property abutting Hoyochi Nikko’s southern property line. The trail will be bounded by fences and/or vegetation on both sides.
- Allowing Hale Mahina to install a railing or other barrier at the end of the trail, but prior to the seawall. The Hale Mahina AOAO can prevent use of the trail until the above-referenced fences, barriers and/or railings are approved and installed. The railing or barrier at the end of the path shall remain in place unless and until the county approves a vertical access alternative such as a stairwell.
- Installing signage to inform the public of the public access as well as the dangers associated with the access.
- Dismissing pending litigation pertaining to both Hale Mahina and Hoyochi Nikko.
Brian Tilker, attorney for Hale Mahina, said Wednesday that “the AOAO Hale Mahina Beach Resort believes that the settlement strikes an appropriate balance in that it provides the public with shoreline access while ensuring the safety of those who will use the path in the future.
“Specifically, the settlement provides for the installation of a railing or other barrier at the end of the access trail as well as signage in order to provide adequate warnings to the public,” Tilker said.
Kai Nishiki of Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula said the settlement was “especially meaningful to me as part of my shoreline advocacy work.” Nishiki said a visiting oceanfront condo owner once told her daughter “you don’t belong here” at a beach across the street from their house. Her son has been hassled while fishing with friends, and neighbors said they’ve been harassed while surfing at Kuleana’s. To make matters worse, Nishiki said, guests have even parked in their neighborhood across from the complexes, worsening the parking challenges in the area.
“This is a long awaited restoration of traditional shoreline access rights for our keiki now, and for future generations to once again be able to peacefully swim, gather, surf, fish, and dive, in perpetuity,” she said.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@maui news.com.
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