A Haleiwa restaurant that was breaking both state and city rules has been back open to business since Tuesday — and is not facing any penalties.
It’s an outcome that’s drawing criticism against the city and the state — the city, because the Haleiwa Beach House restaurant expanded capacity without a valid permit, and the state for letting the restaurant re-open.
The state says the expanded restaurant needed a cesspool upgrade that wasn’t done and wastewater was spilling onto nearby property.
But there’s no penalty for either issue being handed down for the owner Andy Anderson.
Officials say they would rather work with the violator and come up with a resolution rather than battle it out in court. But critics say that encourages more people to break the law knowing there’s no severe punishment.
The State Department of Health’s Wastewater Branch issued a cease-and-desist order to Haleiwa Beach House restaurant after it spilled raw sewage into a nearby pond. The DOH told KHON2 the restaurant recently expanded its seating capacity from 114 people to 388. The state allowed it to re-open as long as it goes back to the original capacity.
When asked why wasn’t the state more forceful in light of Anderson not being fined, Stuart Yamada of the DOH’s wastewater branch said “Not up to this point — we thought it was far more important to bring about compliance immediately rather than to try and kick this around between attorneys.
The health department issues a field citation when there’s a wastewater spill and the fine is normally $200 for the first violation. The violator can either pay the fine and fix the problem within 30 days, or contest it and face penalties of up to $25,000 a day per violation.
But in the case of Haleiwa Beach House, the state chose to work with Anderson, the owner.
The DOH said, on average, it issues 35 field citations, followed up by 12 notice of violations, which are for more serious violations.
It looks like violators have a lot of leeway before anything is done to punish them. “I suppose some people can take that perspective,” Yamada said, “but I think they have to understand that wastewater treatment systems are not inexpensive.”
Tadd Rienstra, however, said “There’s really no punishment.” He’s a contractor who also does site inspections to make sure homes and businesses have city permits.
And he said he sees a lot of un-permitted work. “We talked to a lot of people and we think it’s probably around 70 percent of the homes on the island,” Rienstra said.
KHON2 has been trying to get the city planning department to tell us how many violations they have discovered and how much punishment they’ve handed out, but a spokesman said that information is not available.
In a statement, the city says once a notice of violation is issued, it has to be corrected within 30 days. If it’s not, then a notice of order is issued. Then if nothing is done after another 30 days, fines from $50 to $1,000 a day can be assessed.
If fines are not paid, city attorneys get involved, and can place a lien on the property. The owner’s driver’s license and vehicle license cannot be renewed.
The director of the planning department says they have the authority to stop construction and/or remove work that was done illegally, but adds they would likely not require that the unpermitted portions be demolished.