Hawaii real estate suit filed over noisy frog
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By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
By Kevin Dayton
HILO, Hawai'i — A Honolulu company is suing a Big Island real estate firm for making allegedly false representations about a Hilo property that was billed as "pristine" but turned out to be infested with coqui frogs.
Brinkwood Land Equities Ltd. is suing Hilo Brokers Ltd. and Hilo Brokers owner Kelly Moran in connection with a proposed sale of more than four acres at 245 Wainaku Street.
Although the noisy coqui frogs native to Puerto Rico are now a widespread irritant on the Big Island, several observers of the local real estate industry said this is the first lawsuit over the frogs they have seen.
The loud whistles of the frogs have been commonplace in Wainaku for years, and Moran said the coqui issue was fully disclosed in a contract addendum that warned of the coqui frog problem on the island.
"I think it's a little ludicrous," Moran said of the lawsuit. "They signed off on that addendum that explained the issues of coqui frogs. They signed that when they wrote up the contract, so that's self-explanatory."
According to the suit filed in Honolulu Circuit Court, a Hilo Brokers advertisement for the property suggested that a buyer could "build your development with the views and sounds of waterfalls and Pukihae Stream on your porch."
Sandy Singleton and James Clay made an offer to buy the land on May 23, 2005 for more than $2 million, and committed $25,000 that would be forfeited if the transaction did not close, according to the suit.
The two also committed more than $26,000 in development expenses, according to the suit.
After the deposit was fully committed, Singleton received information that the neighborhood might be a hangout for drug dealers and prostitutes at night, and visited the site on the evening of Sept. 7 to see for himself.
When he arrived at the property, Singleton "heard a painful screeching noise as if small animals or birds were being tortured," according to the suit. He asked a passerby about the noise, and was told he was listening to coqui frogs.
Singleton then decided the property could not be developed in a way that would allow residents there to hear the waterfalls from their homes, and the sale never closed.
Singleton and Clay later assigned their interest and claim in the transaction to Brinkwood, which filed the suit.
The suit alleges that Hilo Brokers and Moran made "false representations" and violated state law that prohibits unfair or deceptive practices.
The suit filed on Sept. 5 seeks damages, costs and lawyers' fees.
In 1999, there were five known locations of the quarter-size frogs on the Big Island. Today the noisy frogs have colonies at hundreds of spots on the Big Island
HITCHED A RIDE
The Puerto Rican frogs likely ended up in Hawai'i in shipments of tropical plants.
THE BEST DEFENSE
Spraying citric acid is the most common way to control or eradicate a colony of coqui frogs.
LEARN MORE: Listen to them at www.hear.org/AlienSpeciesInHawaii/species/frogs
Reach Kevin Dayton at email@example.com.