(BIVN) – A Use Permit allowing the construction of a non-manned telecommunication facility, including a 155-foot tall monopine pole, on the mauka side of Highway 130 about 1.2 miles south of Puna’s Black Sand Beach subdivision, was given conditional approval by the Windward Planning Commission last week.
The tower would enable Verizon service to Seaview Estates, Black Sands Beach subdivision, and other areas of lower Puna.
There remains a question as to whether the applicant has legal access to the property that they want to permit for.
“We had no means or no issue to question it,” said County planner Jeff Darrow, “because even our maps indicated it was a government roadway. What ended up bringing it to our attention, for us to kind of look into it more, was when staff had gone out on a site inspection, the road was gated with a sign that says ‘Private Road’. So, at that point, they made contacts to different agencies to get information regarding that roadway, either being a County Road, an old road in limbo, a state road, or if it was actually private ownership. Through all of the research it seems at this point that it is a private roadway. Even though it doesn’t currently have a TMK for identifying ownership, in discussion with the Department of Transportation, they indicated they do not own the road and that the road was owned by the adjoining landowner.”
“At this point, there needs to be clarification that the applicant has that legal access,” Darrow said. “It may be something easy to provide, it may be something where they need to go and legally acquire that access. So we’re just not sure to what length that may occur. So the question before the Commission is is basically – as I understand from the director – whether to proceed on a conditional basis and assume that it’s somewhat likely that you will be granted access, since we’ve already had hearings and everything. On the other hand, if it’s not at all likely that you will be given access, then the application should have never been received by the Planning Department and we should continue it until it is.”
Dwight Stevens, the owner of the land where the tower will be sited, said he is confident he has legal access to the road.
Commissioners agreed that the service is important for lower Puna. “Down there, there’s no cell coverage,” said commissioner Gilbert Aguinaldo. “Trust me guys, I live in that area. You’re squinting just for one bar. You can’t even call in Seaview. The only way is through texting.”
Despite the access question, the commissioners decided to grant a conditional approval to the project. Verizon and the landowner will need to produce proof that they have legal access to the parcel before they can move forward.