Battle over Maui 'Shanty town' builds as developer tears down acres of structures
It almost seems impossible. Right on the edge of the main drag through Wailuku sits a sprawling plot of land, more than 30 acres, taken up and taken over by nearly 200 people.
Many call them squatters. But those people say they're about to be evicted from a place, that for years, they called home.
“I have chickens. I still don't know what to do with the chickens,” said Brian Ortiz.
It is what Brian Ortiz calls living: off the grid, self-sustaining, with chicken, goats, fruits, veggies, and even a family dog.
“This place, we've been living down here for years and now they're just going to take it away?” he said.
He's one of nearly 200 people living on more than 30 acres in Wailuku across from Iao Stream where the Wailuku Sugar Plantation and sugar cane once stood.
“The mill was right there, this was all cane,” explained Laverne Enomoto, who been above the shantytown for more than 50 years.
She told KITV reporter Lara Yamada, ever since the plantation shut down decades ago, she's seen it grow and grow.
“I do have mixed feelings. All my life I used to play in there when I was young,” she said.
“So there’s no place for me to go. What about all these other people? Where are they going to go? It’s like all the homeless on Oahu. Where are they going to go if you move them?” said Oritz.
But go they must. By late afternoon on Friday, the bulldozers and backhoes were out.
Residents call the area Piihana Properties and said it’s owned by the Hawaiian Kingdom.
But by all other accounts, it's owned by Oahu developer Stanford Carr, who now wants to develop the 34 acres of land.
Sheriffs told KITV they've ben warning people for months that evictions were imminent.
“I've been asked to assist with the eviction because I’m familiar with the people in there and most of them are homeless,” said Lt. Patrick Sniffen.
“I got 10 years working on my land here so I don’t want to lose it,” said Joe Manaois, who’s been living on the land for many years.
Bulldozers cleared just enough to make room for the new base yard. By night fall, that rubble was only a few feet away from the start of Manaois' property.
“We're just here fighting for our rights to live on the land and do what we want,” said Manaois.
“If people had listened, they should have done it instead of waiting until now,” worried Enomoto.
Maui papers and court documents show the landowner has racked up millions of dollars in fines in recent years for sanitation violations and the building of illegal structures.
Copyright 2014 by KITV All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.