It isn’t often that you see big money hubris get stopped in its tracks, but that seems to be what happened in Kapalua a few days ago. That’s when local activists Kai Nishiki and Tamara Paltin discovered that workers in the exclusive, luxurious Kapalua Resort were in the process of demolishing an 80-year-old rock wall.
“When I saw that wall just haphazardly just thrown to the ground,” said Nishiki in this June 8 Hawaii News Now story. “My heart just hurt and there was no cultural over-site and there was no one there overseeing what was going on and I was in shock that this work was going on without any permitting.”
On Facebook, Kapalua Resort Association director Paul Brown said the work was to repair, not tear down the wall, but that that he made a “mistake” by ordering the destruction without obtaining any permit. He also said that all work has been stopped until he can obtain proper permits.
The Hawaii News Now story didn’t include any comment from anyone at the County of Maui, so I asked Planning Department Director Will Spence for his thoughts on whether Brown and the Kapalua Resort Association should have first obtained a Special Management Area (SMA) permit.
“At a very minimum, a SMA assessment should have been filed with our office so we could make a determination whether demolishing the wall is a ‘development’ under the law or not and therefore if it needs a permit(s) or not,” Spence said in a June 9 email. “Even in the case of a legitimate emergency, Planning staff will go see the site and I can issue a ‘Emergency SMA permit’ to mitigate immediate threats while a long-term solution is found.”
Spence made clear that the destruction of the wall is a big deal–and that it could potentially require more than just a permit from the Planning Department.
“After seeing the photos and finding out that wall is almost certainly historic, yes, a SMA permit was needed, one that possibly required a public hearing,” Spence added in the email. “Such an undertaking would have to be reviewed by State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD), who would have had input in determining the significance of the wall. It probably would also require review by Public Works.”
And yes, Kapalua Resort Association could face a fine for the destruction of the wall. “As to fines, we are still finalizing our investigation, but it is possible that fines may be imposed,” Spence said.
Photo courtesy Kai Nishiki