Veterans Continue the Fight

Water access halting new veteran’s center.

Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans have been waiting years for a new center they can call their own. They thought they were on the home stretch, only to find out there are more bureaucratic hoops to jump through before construction can begin.

Even though the Fire Department has signed off on the permit, the Maui County Department of Water Supply has informed the Vets there is not enough water pressure on the Wharf Road site in case of fire.

“The issue is they were told that there was an eight inch water line in letter from the Water Department but that’s not true,” explained Mikal Torgerson, Molokai Staff Planner.

Three and a half years ago, architect Art Parr filed for a Special Management Area (SMA) permit for the Veterans Center with the Molokai Planning Commission. The permit was finally approved earlier this year, after wading through zoning complications and building plan changes. They filed for a building permit, and every department signed off on it except the Water Department, according to Molokai Caring for Veterans Commander Larry Helm.

Does Size Matter?
Parr said instead of the eight inch line they were told existed, a four inch line supplies water from Molokai Burger down Wharf Road, including the Vets’ site.

“What we’re going to build is the size of an average house,” he said. “I’m not sure why a four inch line isn’t sufficient.”

“If the petroleum place has four inch line and that’s enough pressure to prevent fire, why is it not enough for us?” asked Helm.

At the Heart of the Fight

The Vets have decided it may be time to turn to legal measures to get their center. Maui attorney James Fosbinder attended a Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans meeting last week, attended by nearly 100 vets, friends and family, and announced his willingness to represent the group in a possible law suit against the county.

 “This is the most outrageous case of government bureaucratic abuse that I’ve seen and I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” said Fosbinder.

He said this type of case falls under the legal term “exaction,” often called extortion. In such a case, a developer or builder has to pay for some infrastructure themselves.

“They’re asking you to build a pipe that will benefit [all nearby] land owners,” explained Fosbinder. “I would dearly like to represent you on this.”

Chairman of the Molokai Planning Commission Steve Chaikin advised veterans to take the route of least resistance before resorting to legal means. He said the commission has made a formal request for Water Department Director Jeff Eng to come to a Molokai Planning Commission meeting to discuss the issue face to face. Eng was reportedly not able to attend the commission’s next meeting on May 26, but Chaikin said he hasn’t given up. He said the commission would be willing to reschedule their bi-monthly meeting to accommodate Eng’s schedule.

Torgerson said he has personally issued a letter requesting Eng to release the permit.

“I think it’s an unnecessary and disrespectful wait,” said Torgerson.

The veterans have decided to wait two months before pursuing a law suit. In the mean time, they will try further communication with county officials and politicians in an attempt to gain their building permit. 

Eng could not be reached for comment.

Veterans gather around a cross erected on the ground of the future Veteran’s Center. The cross is in honor of those Molokai vets who have died since the effort to build the center began several years ago.

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