New & Noteworthy: Big Island Dairy; Lanikai Land Grab

posted in: Agriculture, January 2021, Land Use | 0

Big Island Dairy: The cows are gone and the site has been cleaned up, at least to the satisfaction of the state Department of Health. The Big Island Dairy near O‘okala, on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island, has been out of business for more than a year.

But the folks who hold the lease of 2,300 acres of state land where the dairy had operated continue to pay the state rent, now set at $57,000 a year.

At the meeting last month of the state Board of Agriculture, staff with the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Resource Management Division (ARM) explained the proposed settlement of a rent dispute with the dairy, whose owners are based in Idaho. No mention was made of the fact that the dairy is no longer in operation.

It fell to Mary Alice Evans, representing the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, to ask if this was the same dairy that closed down following multiple Department of Health violations involving dairy waste fouling area streams.

“Yes,” replied ARM’s Lisa Murai. “They’ve pretty much closed operations. … They haven’t given any indication they want to terminate the lease.”

In response to further questioning, Murai told the board that the lessees “let us know that they are trying to assign their lease position. As a result, they are continuing with the lease and continuing to pay the lease rent.”

Apart from the operation of the dairy, board members questioned how ARM arrived at the settlement.

“I’m confused,” said Dave Smith, representing the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The appraisal done by the state said the rent should be set at $64,050 a year for the period 2018 to 2028, but it was negotiated down to $57,645 a year, he noted. And on top of that, the ARM was proposing waiving $56,797.50, which was the amount of back rent owed by the dairy since the previous rental rate expired on June 4, 2018, through December 4, 2019.

Murai said that the problem arose because the department was late in getting the appraisal done. To save money, she said, the ARM contracts with an appraiser to do multiple jobs rather than contracting on a case-by-case basis.

Smith pointed out that the practice resulted in the department losing out on roughly $57,000.

But, Murai added, it was done “to support the dairy. This is my belief, not the department’s, but I believe we want to support the dairy. We wanted to compromise.”

Lanikai Land Grab: Close readers of the December 23 Notice published by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control may have seen an item reporting the intention of homeowners at 958 Mokulua Drive in Lanikai to register title to .42 acres of beach land that lies makai of their property. If approved by the Land Court, that would more than double the size of the current house lot, which, according to property tax records, is .41 acre.

Lanikai beach is, of course, one of the prize jewels among O‘ahu’s vanishing beaches. Seawalls and development at both the Waimanalo end of the beach and the Kailua end have caused sands there to pretty much disappear. Yet in the area of the beach where the house in question sits, the beach is still wide and heavily vegetated with naupaka.

Claims to accreted land by adjoining property owners have been the subject of much litigation and legislation for decades. But in this case, there was a hiccup.

The OEQC Notice of December 23 carried a link to what was purported to be the petition to the Land Court. Public notice of such petitions is required by law. As originally published, however, the link took the reader not to the Lanikai petition, filed on behalf of Paul and Sherry Lambert, who own the 7,000-square-foot home on Mokulua, but to a different petition altogether, one relat- ing to a claim filed on behalf of a Mokuleia homeowner.

Tom Eisen, a planner with the OEQC, told Environment Hawai‘i that that agency was responsible for the error. In producing the issue of the Notice, he said, “a link was erroneously made to an older petition submitted for a different project.” The link was corrected on December 24.

Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 501, the statute relating to accreted land, “does not appear to provide any time for commenting on the application/petition,” Eisen noted. “It merely requires notice to be published, and now a corrected notice has been published.”

The corrected link reveals what seems to be further error, though. While the petition to register the accreted land is on behalf of the Lamberts, the petition title page plus the first page of the petition (pages 3-4 of the pdf) refer to an application by Helene Irwin Crocker.

Patricia Tummons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *