Honolulu District 2 City Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi hastily pushed through this Resolution 22-11 on an immigrant family from the Island of Tonga. The property owner Taufa bought their Ag-2 farm of 12.693 acres on November 7, 2019.
The property is along 54-406 Kamehameha Highway, next to the Hau’ula Kai Shopping Center. It also has valuable highway frontage. On the mauka side, it is abutting two other major land owners with thousands of acres – LOCAL 675/UNITED ASSOC and PROPERTY RESERVE INC.
Council member Tsuneyoshi’s Resolution 22-11 is confusing – – with different allegations and accusations that are not under the Honolulu City and County’s jurisdiction of enforcement.
The specific county Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) violations (with a compounded fines of about $400,000.00) in the Resolution 22-11 to urge eminent domain are:
1) grubbing and grading without a permit,
2) constructing a structure, fence,
and utility pole without a permit,
3) storing metal containers without a permit, and
4) operating a base yard for construction vehicles and equipment in an AG-2 District.
According to the private owner Taufa, he was told by DPP to apply for permits to correct his Notices of Violations ( NOVs).
Taufa had questions about DPP giving him violations and fines with the short fences to keep wild pigs from eating his tapioca crops and storing metal containers on his farm. Fences and storing metal containers are allowed on Ag lands. The owner was also asked to remove hundreds of feet of his boundary chain-link fence, of which he did.
Taufa also hired an engineer to help with his grubbing and grading violations. The approval permit to cure the grading was cancelled recently. His permit to cure the relocated structure was cancelled. DPP was told to not give him permits that turned this situation into a CATCH 22. All these fines, whether accurate or not, compounded during the past two years to a hefty fine of about $400,000.00
He has started removing his commercial equipment and vehicles from the farm.
Timeline for Tsuneyoshi’s Resolution 22-11
January 20, 2022 Tsuneyoshi authored and introduced Resolution 22-11 for Eminent Domain.
February 8, 2022, she quietly presented her Resolution 22-11 away from the public radar at the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs (EMLA) Committee. There were three (3) eminent domain cases that day. Two Resolutions appeared friendly, with one owner telling the city she hoped the city could take her property.
Taufa’s property was the hostile taking. Interestingly, his property was quickly changed from “Eminent Domain” to “Judicial Foreclosure” during the EMLA Committee Meeting.
February 23, 2022, the Resolution 22-11 was adopted by the full Council. It took the City Council twenty-five (25) working days to introduce and adopt this Resolution.
February 24, 2022, a SEARCH WARRANT, filed on February 18, 2022, from the State Attorney’s Office was conducted at Taufa’s farm. Major television media stations were tipped off about this SEARCH WARRANT action.
What’s going on?
Why this mad rush to target a private property owner and criminalize his violations?
Are there other motives behind this quick taking?
Why is Tsuneyoshi a city county council member taking on the enforcement roles of the State (like Department of Health (DOH), Attorney General’s Office,Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) and Federal (EPA) enforcements? We asked the DOH and were told that they are looking for compliance and not in working to take properties.
A little research brings out a few more details about the city’s agenda.
The public does not seem to know about these State legislative actions. I contacted State Legislators who did not seem to be aware either.
When County Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi’s Resolution 22-11 was being adopted on February 23, 2022, there was a concurrent Bill HB 1434 being heard at the Hawaii State Legislature to seize private property based on DPP Fines.
This Bill HB 1434 further tightens the noose on a private property owner. Never mind “Eminent Domain” or even “Judicial Foreclosure”. The Honolulu DPP wants “NON-Judicial Foreclosure” – a quicker seizure of property without going to court.
(UPDATED NOTE: March 10, 2022 – the wording of “NON-Judicial Foreclosure” is deleted in the HB 1434 and SB 2110. The wording of “Power of Sale” is now used.) But other statements allude to “NON-JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE”.
This BILL HB 1434 was so away from the public radar that there were no public testimonies. Only three testimonies were received; all from Honolulu Hale. The following is a testimony from the Director of Planning and Permitting:
Here is the testimony from Honolulu City Council Chair of the Zoning and Planning Committee, Brandon Elefante:
Here is the testimony from Honolulu City Council Budget Chair Calvin Say:
What do you think?
Is Private Property Rights under assault?
Should private property owners be afraid of DPP’s ambitions?
Can the public trust DPP to be fair and consistent in its application of punishments?
What could possibly go wrong with giving this much added powers to DPP?
Is the City trying to find a new source of revenue?
Are these actions inching towards a totalitarian system?