(BIVN) – Public access to the beach at Pāpaʻikou is back on the agenda for the Hawaiʻi County Council this week.
The council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday will discuss Resolution 732-20, introduced by Hāmākua councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, which would authorize the Corporation Counsel to “initiate proceedings in eminent domain for the taking, acquisition, and condemnation of private property for the purpose of expanding public access to the beach area located at the end of Mill Road.”
The council previously voted to take the property, but Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ruled in favor of the landowners earlier this year, according to the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald. Still, in granting the motion for summary judgment against Hawaiʻi County, the judge did so without prejudice, meaning the County may refile the suit.
From the “whereas” section of Resolution 732-20:
WHEREAS, the beach at Papaikou is one of the few sand beaches on the coast north of Hilo, where the public can safely access the ocean; and
WHEREAS, the beach at Papaikou is used and enjoyed by many residents of the island of Hawaii for surfing, fishing, diving, swimming, ʻopihi picking, outdoor recreation, picnicking, spending time in nature, and other rights traditionally and customarily practiced by native Hawaiians; and
WHEREAS, the beach at Papaikou is public property up to the high wash of the waves, as defined in Hawaiʻi law; and
WHEREAS, for decades the public has accessed the beach at Papaikou by first traversing over Mill Road, identified as Tax Map Key (3) 2-7-027-065, before descending to the beach via a trail that crosses over the property identified as Tax Map Key (3) 2-7-004-118; and
WHEREAS, the current owners of the properties identified as Tax Map Keys (3)-2-7-027-065 and (3) 2-7-004-118 assert that public access to the beach at Papaikou via the beach trail is available only with their consent; and
WHEREAS, the current owners of the properties identified as Tax Map Keys (3)-2-7-027-065 and (3) 2-7-004-118 have imposed restrictions on the use of the path, including limitation of hours, and occasionally denying use of the trail for periods of time; and
WHEREAS, the public’ s right to use the beach at Papaikou cannot be exercised without overland access; and
WHEREAS, it is in the public interest to guarantee public access to the beach at Papaikou by securing an unobstructed, perpetual, and non-exclusive right-of-way to the beach at Papaikou; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 101 and Sections 46-1 5(6), 46-61, and 46-62, 115-2, and 115-6 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, the County of Hawaii has the duty and authority to exercise the power of eminent domain to condemn private property for a public use such as beach access; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 101- 13 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, a condemnation action must be authorized by a resolution of the County Council; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAII that it is in the public interest to acquire a public right of way to the beach at Papaikou, to wit: a perpetual, unobstructed, and non-exclusive easement for public pedestrian ingress and egress through that certain private property identified as Tax Map Key (3)-2-7-027-065 and Tax Map Key (3)-2-7-004-118; the metes and bounds descriptions of the easements to be taken are detailed on Exhibits “A” and “B,” attached hereto; furthermore, the County of Hawaii will be responsible for the maintenance of the easement over Tax Map Key (3)-2-7-027-065 and Tax Map Key (3) 2-7-004-118, to maintain the easement in a condition suitable for pedestrian travel; liability and any restrictions in relation to the easement that traverses Tax Map Key (3)-2-7-027-065 and Tax Map Key (3) 2-7-004-118 will be allocated as provided by law. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Corporation Counsel of the County of Hawaii be and is hereby authorized and empowered to initiate proceedings in eminent domain, as provided by law, for the taking, acquisition, and condemnation of the aforesaid private property.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the process of said proceedings in eminent domain, the Corporation Counsel be and is hereby authorized and empowered to negotiate terms of settlement, subject to the approval of the court before which such proceedings are prosecuted.
BE T FURTHER RESOLVED that the Director of Finance is hereby authorized to initiate any funding mechanisms required for the acquisition of said public access easements.