Gate sparks debate: Property owners seek to secure their community

  • The County Department of Public Works has revoked a building permit for a gate across Kaiolu Street where it meets Alii Drive, saying owners of all 14 lots in the small subdivision did not approve the application. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Good fences may make good neighbors, as the poet famously says. But gates, apparently not so much.

The county Department of Public Works has revoked a building permit for a gate across Kaiolu Street where it meets Alii Drive, saying owners of all 14 lots in the small subdivision did not approve the application.

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The joint owners of one of the lots, Scott Scherer and Mona Wu, who recently constructed a house on the corner lot near Alii Drive, objected to the gate and hired San Francisco attorney Peter Craigie to protest. In response, DPW Director Ikaika Rodenhurst first suspended, then revoked the permit.

The action spurred a debate Friday before the Board of Appeals about whether Rodenhurst had the authority to unilaterally revoke a permit. The permit as approved under the old building code, and then revoked under the new code approved this summer, which expressly gives the director that authority.

The board ultimately postponed action until Nov. 12 to allow attorneys for both sides to argue the building code issue.

However, Ron Kim, attorney for property owner Douglas Dierenfield, who had applied for the permit, said there is nothing in the county code requiring unanimous approval by all property owners. Twelve of the property owners had approved of the project.

Property owners point to vagrancy, litter and crime as reasons for installing the gate. In letters to DPW, the residents, several of them elderly and others with young children, described their fears caused by nighttime activity in the area. Concerns have been raised so high, there are now surveillance cameras up and down their roadway, they said.

The gate would remain open during the day and be closed only at night, they said. They characterized the lone dissenter as an owner of a vacation rental who doesn’t live in the community.

“The gate was needed for the House Lot owners’ safe use and enjoyment of the Property and their respective House Lots because unauthorized users have been accessing the Property at night and creating disturbances including but not limited to break-ins and late-night noise and traffic, leaving behind drug paraphernalia, bottles, trash, used condoms and abandoned cars,” Kim said in his petition to the county. “The majority of House Lot owners agreed to share in the costs of installing and maintaining the gate.”

Scherer, through his attorney, questioned whether property owners had the legal authority to construct a gate.

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”After reviewing the title report, it does not appear that the residents of Kaiolu Street actually own the street. Even if they did own the street, there is no established community association and no (Covenants, Conditions &Restrictions) for this street allowing tor the proposed gate and there are no maintenance plans,” Craigie said in his response. “My clients further believe that public access has been grandfathered in due to the many years of use by the surfing public. Many famous surfers use this access and any proposed gate will be sure to draw litigation from the Surf Riders Foundation.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

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