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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 2, 2007

Issue of locked gate divides residents

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

Nursery owner Tina Jensen stands outside the Poamoho Estates gate that she says board members want to close during the day and allow access only via electronic control. Jensen says this would restrict her business by intimidating and driving away customers.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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WAIALUA Tina Jensen thought she found the perfect location for a plant-rental and nursery business when she purchased five acres at Poamoho Estates agriculture subdivision. But she soon discovered that some of her neighbors didn't share the same views about their land.

Since 2003, when Jensen and her husband, Bernard Moriaz, bought their lot, she has pushed to keep a "temporary" gate to the community open during regular business hours. But she said community residents would periodically lock it, preventing customers from dropping in.

The community association recently installed a second, electric gate, but only half of the gate is open during Jensen's business hours. The gate bears signs saying: "private property, no trespassing, use your code, warning," leading potential customers to believe they are trespassing, Jensen said.

Now the community's board of directors wants to lock the gate all day and admit only people who can access a code.

Jensen said that would create a gated community that would restrict her business and intimidate and drive away her customers.

"A gated community doesn't say, 'We're open, welcome,' " Jensen said. "It says Kahala. It says, 'Don't come in, you're not welcome.' "

Jensen would like both gates open during regular business hours and locked after closing. She said people see the gates and think the business is closed.

A statement sent by the attorney representing the Poamoho Estates board said members of the association voted for the electric gate and that a majority agreed to the hours it would remain locked.

Adrian Rosehill, attorney for the Poamoho board of directors, said Jensen was on the committee that researched the issue of gated access.

"Access to the property will not be barred, and will be augmented through several means which all owners, guests and others seeking access will have the ability to use," the statement said. Theft and criminal activity in other agricultural communities on the North Shore demonstrate the need for controlled access, the statement said.

"It is unfortunate that a small minority have chosen to distort the actual facts despite overwhelming community support of the measure," the statement continued.

Once a sugarcane field, Poamoho Estates was created as an agriculture subdivision with properties between five and seven acres. Jensen said the locked gate calls into question the legitimacy of the agriculture subdivision where only two of the 15 lots have thriving agriculture businesses.

The city said it will investigate.

Property owners that dedicate their land to agriculture use are taxed at a lower rate, but they must be actively farming. A request was made to inspect the Poamoho Estates lands and verify the exemptions, said Gary Kurokawa, administrator for the city Real Property Assessment Division. Kurokawa didn't know the date when the inspection would take place.

Exemptions apply to agricultural businesses such as truck farming and nurseries but don't apply to personal use, like having a horse, Kurokawa said.

"It must be for some kind of agriculture production," he said. "It cannot be for your home use."

Without the dedication, property owners have to pay property taxes at the same rate as other residents.

Carving up large parcels of agriculture land goes against the sentiment of the North Shore community at large, said Antya Miller, executive director for the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. The community wants to maintain open space and become more self-sufficient in supplying its food, Miller said.

"We need real agriculture," she said. "We do not need fake farms."

About a week ago, the board informed Jensen that the newly installed electric gate will be locked all day beginning June 15 unless she can show legally that it can't be done.

Jensen feels she has legal grounds to prevent them from locking the gates. The community association said if she does, they will reconsider.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.