Leilani Estates checkpoint to remain — for now

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Police officers patrol the entrance to Leilani Estates in June at the intersection of Highway 130.

Mayor Harry Kim announced Monday that the Leilani Estates checkpoint will remain active for at least another month.

The checkpoint, which prevents anyone but authorized residents access to Leilani Estates, was scheduled to be removed by the end of October, but will instead continue to operate until the end of November.

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Kim said the time extension will hopefully give the county enough time to make new plans about how to manage access to Leilani Estates and work with the community to alleviate conflict.

The decision came shortly after the Leilani Estates Community Association announced its intention to file a lawsuit against the county for its lack of communication with the subdivision during the Kilauea eruption. In particular, the association pointed to the possible removal of the checkpoint as a potentially harmful development for the community, exposing the subdivision to sightseers and lawbreakers.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been paying the bulk of the checkpoint’s costs, which are about $100,000 a month, Kim said. FEMA aid is expected to cease by the end of this month, hence the previously scheduled removal of the checkpoint.

Kim said continuing the checkpoint beyond the end of November is always an option, particularly considering the possibility of a resurgence in volcanic activity.

Kim added that the county also might develop a plan for a publicly accessible lava viewing area while determining how to move forward with the checkpoint. A viewing area, he explained, would kill several birds with one stone, simultaneously drawing tourists away from the subdivision itself while providing a much-needed economic boon to nearby Pahoa.

However, Kim’s announcement will not stop the impending lawsuit, said Leilani Estates Community Association President Jay Turkovsky.

“Really, it doesn’t have a lot of impact on the lawsuit,” Turkovsky said Monday.

He said the monthlong extension is not sufficient time to make any significant decisions regarding the subdivision, and the main issue raised by the lawsuit — the dearth of communication from the county — remains unaddressed. In fact, Turkovsky said, the first he heard about Kim’s Monday decision was from a Tribune-Herald reporter seeking comment about it.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed later this week, Turkovsky said.

Kim declined to comment about the lawsuit, but said Leilani Estates residents are “just people with different opinions.”

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“We will try to be better on working with the community,” Kim said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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