City: Big fines haven’t stopped ‘egregious violator’ from flouting environmental laws

City officials say a Windward Oahu construction company is flouting zoning and environmental laws.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 5:44 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 8:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials say a Windward Oahu construction company is flouting zoning and environmental laws.

But despite steep fines, the city hasn’t been able to stop the company.

“This is an egregious violator,” said Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, deputy director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting. “It’s extreme in the sense that we don’t deal with the type of person that completely ignores all of our issuance of violations.”

The 13-acre property at 54-406 Kamehameha Highway is the base yard for Iosepa Electric and General Contracting. But it’s also a protected wetland that’s zoned for agricultural use not business use.

Neighbors blame illegal grading and stockpiling on the property for flooding in homes across the highway during last year’s heavy rains.

“This illegal dump is a man-made disaster for our community residents and for our aina,” said Dotty Kelly-Paddock, a member of the Koolauloa Neighborhood Board.

The city has issued over $300,000 in fines against the owner, put liens on the property and even sent police officers to serve stop work orders ― to no avail.

“As soon as the HPD stops work and leaves I understand the landowner continues to do the same work that is in violations of our laws,” Takeuchi Apuna said.

Added Councilmember Esther Kiaaina: “I am in shock ... about the failure to be able to hold the landowner in compliance,” she said.

City Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi introduced a resolution urging more enforcement action against the owner. The Council Zoning and Planning Committee passed the resolution last week.

“How this individual can think he can continue to do these things in plain sight of the community and be from the community just blows my mind that anybody would be so brazen,” said Tsuneyoshi.

But the owner blames the city for the mess. He said years ago the city built storm drains uphill of his property, which changed the flow of water during heavy rains.

Owner Hoapate Taufa also told Hawaii News Now on Tuesday that he intends to comply but said that he is being singled out by the city, which cancelled his permit request.

The city, meanwhile, is calling for a criminal investigation. It also wants the authority to be able to foreclose on property owners that ignore the rules.

“This is an example of why we need a little bit more teeth in the law so that we can go after these people who are totally ignoring ― and basically flipping the bird at us ― as we try and enforce the law,” said Dean Uchida, the DPP’s director.

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