When the Molokai veterans gathered under a tent on May 19 at the site of the new veterans center on Wharf Road, the idea was to find alternatives to legal action against Maui County.
Since that day — and over the past four-and-a-half years — the group Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans has jumped through every bureaucratic and legal hurdle thrown at them in an attempt to obtain a building permit to construct a 3,000-foot prefabricated building for a veterans center.
At that May meeting, commander of the MVCV, Larry Helm, said they would give it two months to find a political solution before seeking litigation. Attorney Jim Fosbinder, partner in the Maui firm Ivey, Fosbinder & Fosbinder, said at the meeting that he is not sure why the county has caused the delays but believes this is a “top down” decision coming from Mayor Charmaine Tavares.
Now, four months later, the veterans have run out of time and patience. On Friday, the veterans filed a 41-page federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
While many of the delays over the past four years have been the result of confusing and ambiguous county zoning and land use codes, the current hold up is over the water line. The county Department of Water Supply has said the veterans need to upgrade the current four-inch water main with an eight-inch line. This requirement came a year after a contradictory DWS memo was sent to the County Planning Department saying the line was eight-inches. It was this original assessment that the veterans had used to make their plans.
Regardless of the size of the line, the Maui County Fire Department had already tested and approved the nearby fire hydrant as flowing at a rate of 1,630 gallons per minute, well above the 1,250 GPM required. When the DWS tested the same line they came out with much lower numbers. Apparently, the fire department used a 4.5-inch diameter outlet in its test as opposed to a 2.5-inch outlet used by the DWS.
The veterans then attempted to support new county legislation that would change the authority on building permits from the DWS to the fire department in determining fire suppression needs. This proposed law has been stuck in the water committee for months and does not seem to be making any progress.
“Four-and-a-half years of the permit process to obtain a building permit is too long and unacceptable,” said Helm.