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Residents sue county to enforce Kona planning law


Kona residents Richard and Patricia Missler are taking county officials to court for violating the Kona Community Development Plan Ordinance that the Hawaii County Council had unanimously enacted into law in 2008 and for violating the public trust that Big Island voters had adopted into law.

In their circuit court challenge, the Misslers contend the County Board of Appeals erred when the board upheld the decision of County Planning Director, Bobbi Jean Leithead-Todd, to approve the development of a high-density subdivision in the midst of an old-growth, rare and healthy ohita forest at Waikakuu, South Kona that lies next to the State South Kona Forest Reserve and that is a habitat for endangered species like the Hawaiian Hawk and the Hawaiian Hoary Bat as well as other endemic native forest birds and plants.

The state has also designated the area as a Priority One watershed In olden times, Hawaiians treasured the area for its water and off-shore fishery and for the abundance of forest birds whose feathers were used to make precious garments.

By its decision dated Aug. 10, 2012, the County Board of Appeals ruled the Planning Director did not have to comply with the requirements of the Community Development Plan law because, the board concluded, the plan law is illegal and not enforceable.

The board, however, made no ruling on the Planning Director’s or its own obligation as trustees of the public trust.

Michael Matsukawa, attorney for the Misslers, said, “The board’s ruling is a slap in the face of all of those who invested their time, resources and talent in getting the community plan enacted into law. The board’s ruling is a slap in the face of all of those who invested their time, resources and talent in getting the community plan enacted into law.”

He added, “The boards’ decision reflects how public officials believe they can disregard the public trust. It’s wrong that citizens must spend their own money to get county officials to do their jobs properly and in accordance with the laws they are charged to administer.”

The Misselers said, “The further along we got into our case and hearings the more shocked and saddened we were to realize what seemed to be ‘business as usual’ at the planning department with their reluctance to follow the laws put into place to protect our environment. Safeguarding our watershed benefits everyone.”

According to papers filed early in the controversy, the Board of Appeals’ ruling is a dangerous precedent that tells landowners, developers and government officials to disregard the community plan law and proceed without concern for the public trust that island voters adopted into law.

One Response to “Residents sue county to enforce Kona planning law”

  1. Cd says:

    The resident land owners never voted for CDP’s to become law. In fact all working groups involved were so intimadated , bullied , lied and slandered. This cdp process is written by dpw , Helco , planning and developers. Otherwise the plans we wrote would be implemented. The published ones were never seen or discussed.


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