Maui County has issued a $5,000 fine against the organizers of the first Paia Ukulele Festival, held Nov. 24 on oceanfront property off Hana Highway at the Johnny B's Burgers location.
One of the festival organizers, Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier, took offense at the fine levied by the county Department of Planning.
"All of us local citizens and volunteers produced a free, beautiful Hawaiian cultural festival with over 2,000 people attending," he said. "We are so disappointed and hurt that our own Maui-born Mayor Alan Arakawa would do something like this to the families that worked in producing the festival."
Burgmaier said the event was held on private property, which has a proper special management area permit in place. He added that, two days before the festival, he received a voicemail message from Planning Director Will Spence saying that the festival could be held on the commercial side of the property.
Reached by phone Saturday, Spence said that Burgmaier's account was not correct.
Spence said he did not authorize the event to proceed. The fine is for failing to get a special management area assessment, he added.
The issue over county permitting has been ongoing for approximately 18 months with the property's lessee, who wanted to hold commercial weddings on the property, Spence said.
On another matter, because of vagueness in the flood zone law, the department took a "business friendly" approach and did not require the property owner to raise the building 6 feet off the ground, Spence said.
"We actually helped Johnny B's," he said.
Since then, the county has received three complaints about the property, with one about movies shown on the property, he said. Another complaint was lodged with the county when advertising for the ukulele festival surfaced.
Spence said that the event organizers were told they needed permits, and "they did not get them."
"They have full knowledge of what they're supposed to do under the law, and they've ignored it," he said.
Spence added that the $5,000 fine is just a fraction of the $100,000 fine that could have been levied under the law.
"We just want them to comply," he said.
Burgmaier said that the festival was notified on Wednesday before the Saturday event that permits were required and Thursday was the Thanksgiving holiday so there wasn't time to get permits for the event.
Spence said the Planning Department was open and staffed on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and the permit issue could have been addressed then, although, he said, there was no promise to issue a permit.
He said he was personally at the office that day, after telling Burgmaier, by phone, what he needed to do.
Other events, like the Red Bull Jaws Paddle competition at Peahi, which began its holding period Friday; the annual Maui Film Festival; and the Maui County-sponsored Halloween festivities applied for and received permits, Spence said.
"We are being consistent with how we've been with everybody else," he said.
He added that Burgmaier can appeal the fine to the Maui Planning Commission.
But Burgmaier was defiant.
"We're not going to pay it," he said. "It's ridiculous. It was on private property."
Burgmaier said he believed that it wasn't necessary to apply for permits because the property's special management area permit covered the festival activities.
After being warned of potential fines days before the festival, event organizers made some last-minute adjustments, including building a new stage with a base of picnic tables and painting an orange line in the grass separating residential and commercial portions of the property. Organizers also abandoned plans to use an oceanfront viewing platform as the stage because it was on residentially zoned land. Instead, the stage was located on the property's commercially zoned area.
Festival performers included Paula Fuga, the Kalama School Ukulele Band and Wilson Kanaka'ole.
Burgmaier, who is part-Hawaiian and a member of the Hawaii Reinstated Government group, said that the festival was an expression of Hawaiian culture.
The county's enforcement action infringed on the organizers' rights to free speech and to practice Hawaiian culture, he said.
"A lot of musicians are furious about this," he said.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.