County vows to go to court over unpermitted Hilo homeless camp

  • New signs and tarps have been added to a fenced-off and tarped area behind Agasa Furniture and Music Store between Ponahawai and Mamo streets in Hilo that has become a homeless encampment. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
  • New signs and tarps have been added to a fenced-off and tarped area behind Agasa Furniture and Music Store between Ponahawai and Mamo streets in Hilo that has become a homeless encampment. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — A complaint has been served to “two main individuals” involved with a Hilo property where a homeless commune has been established.

Big Island newspapers reported last month that enforcement actions by the Planning and Public Works departments were filed, but had not yet been served to the owners.

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Corporation Counsel Joseph Kamelamela said that a process server last week served “two main individuals,” who, as of Monday, had 20 days to respond to the complaint.

A lot located between Ponahawai and Mamo streets behind Agasa Furniture and Music Store near the Hilo Farmers Market has become a fenced-off community of tents and other temporary structures, in defiance of multiple orders by county agencies to clear the lot.

Kamelamela did not name the individuals, but the owners of the lot are NSHE HI Foxglove LLC and NSHE HI Thistle LLC, which are both owned by Big Island residents Jerilyn Rose and Michael Ravenswing.

According to Planning Department documents, the property is located within a Special Management Area, and no structures — including tents— are permitted to be erected without an SMA use permit.

An inspection as early as November of last year by the Planning and Public Works found a 6-foot perimeter chain-link fence, concrete slab foundations, tents, a portable toilet and people residing on the lot.

The Planning Department contacted Rose and Ravenswing several times about the unpermitted structures, but the owners failed to respond or take any corrective action.

Their inaction regarding the structures on their land accrued $5,800 in fines by late March.

Now that the complaint has been served, “we go to court,” Kamelamela said, adding that the county intends to file a preliminary and permanent injunction to “stop them from further violation of our county law, our county codes.”

If the individuals served with the complaint fail to respond, “we get a default judgment,” he explained. If they do answer, the matter would then be argued before a judge, and the county would make the motion for an injunction.

A timeline and resolution will depend on “what they do. But it is something that’s not going to happen in 20 days,” said Kamelamela.

“The county is going to enforce the law, like anything else. We want to make sure that people follow the law.”

When reached by phone Tuesday, Rose declined comment on plans to respond to the complaint.

In April, however, she wrote a letter to the editor explaining, to some extent, her motives:

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“I own private property which is in the lawful Hawaiian Kingdom as the takeover of this land by corporate power has been recognized as unlawful. I stand on the Hawaiian Kingdom, which exists under God’s law. The Hawaiian Rose Trust exists to restore the executive power to the House of the Queen. Where there is private property, there is no homeless person and therefore no ‘homeless camp,’” she wrote.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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