State briefs for February 16

Officials sue vacation home owners for rental fines

LIHUE, Kauai — Officials on Kauai are suing the owners of a vacation home, claiming they are violating county zoning ordinances for using the property as a short-term rental.

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The Kauai County Planning Department filed the lawsuit last week, seeking to compel Greg and Joanne Allen to pay $130,000 in fines.

County officials have tried for more than a year to stop the couple from renting out their four-bedroom Wailua house that is outside the area designated for transient vacation rentals, according to the lawsuit.

The planning department notified the owners in June 2017 that their rental operation was “unlawful,” telling them they could be fined if they did not stop the rentals within 15 days, according to the lawsuit.

The department issued another cease and desist order two months later and fined the couple $10,000. The Allens contested the fine, leading to a hearing before a planning department officer last year.

The hearing officer upheld the initial fine and the department’s request to add $120,000 because the Allens continued renting out the property “in blatant disregard of the department’s notice and order,” according to the documents.

Greg Allen said the planning department has been “overzealous.” He said the previous proceedings were unfair because his lawyer was not allowed to present his case at the hearing.

He has no immediate plans to stop renting the place out, he said.

Environmental groups sue Maui over replacement streetlights

WAILUKU, Maui — Two environmental groups are suing Maui officials over plans to replace about 4,800 streetlights with LED fixtures, claiming the new lights would threaten seabirds and sea turtles.

Environmental law organization Earthjustice filed the lawsuit this week on behalf of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund and Conservation Council for Hawaii.

The lawsuit claims the Maui County Department of Public Works and others violated law by proceeding with the project without a legally mandated environmental review.

The groups proposed using LED bulbs that filter out blue light because streetlights with a high blue light content can harm the animals. But the county ignored the warnings and exempted the project from environmental review, according to the suit.

Bright lights can attract and disorient birds, such as the endangered Hawaiian petrel and the threatened Newell’s shearwater, the groups said. The birds circle the lights until they fall, becoming vulnerable to predators and vehicles, they said.

Newly hatched critically endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles can be drawn to the lights, distracting them from reaching the ocean, the groups said.

County spokesman Brian Perry said officials are “unable to respond with any specificity to any of the allegations,” noting Wednesday that the county had not yet been served with the complaint.

Southwest Airlines considers Las Vegas-Hawaii flights

LAS VEGAS — The chief executive of Southwest Airlines says the Dallas-based carrier is considering adding nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Hawaii.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly says launching flights to Hawaii from four California cities is the airline’s priority this year, but adding flights from Nevada to Hawaii could be possible next year.

The airline hopes to begin service to Hawaii in April.

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It completed a test flight from Oakland, California, to Honolulu last month to show federal aviation officials that it should be authorized to begin flying across the Pacific Ocean.

The airline is awaiting certification by the Federal Aviation Administration to start the commercial flights to Hawaii.

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