I first came to Orchidland Estates, in the Puna District on Hawaii Island, in 1995 for my wife’s 25th high school reunion. We were only here for 10 days but I was so enchanted that I could not make myself get into our rental car. We almost missed our flight.

We house sat on 37th during two summers. My wife had a year off in 1998-1999 and we spent the year in Orchidland. In the fall of 1998 we bought a two acre lot on 37th Avenue between Aulii and Ilima.

That year I was also active in what is called Orchidland Community Association, Inc. I was on a committee that established Orchidland’s first road paving plan.

Attending my first general meeting in 1998, and several monthly board meetings after that, gave me first hand experience of the rough and tumble nature of unsupervised subdivision associations. From my perspective there was general confusion among active property owners about the nature of our association.

As a result, I began to research the legal structure of Orchidland. This structure is made of the deeds for the 2,490 lots in the subdivision.
There are no covenants or restrictions recorded with any of these deeds. There is no mention on any deed that the owner is a member of OLCA.

In fact, there is no mention of OLCA and its court-entitled powers to assess and collect road fees.

I learned that the associations in two substandard subdivisions had taken lot owners before the Third Circuit Court in Hilo. These were Paradise Hana Huilike, claiming to rule Hawaiian Paradise Park and my own OLCA, claiming to rule Orchidland. The PHH case had even reached the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1983.

A screen shot from of a Google map marking the location of Orchidland Estates on Hawaii Island.

I read that the Supreme Court had found, in fairness, that there were duties and obligations among the lot owners in Paradise Park for road maintenance. The Supreme Court ordered our Third Circuit to find a solution.

The Third Circuit chose to “entitle” PHH in the guise of a Hawaiian nonprofit incorporation. In fact, PHH is an agent of the court. The Supreme Court did not require the Third Circuit to “entitle” PHH to manage the roads. That decision is entirely on the Third Circuit itself.

This past February our state House of Representatives considered the plight of the substandard subdivisions. In House Bill 288 — a measure regarding maintenance of roads and other infrastructure — lawmakers determined that “. . . the judicial system has created a patchwork system . . . that does not provide adequate oversight.”

In 1983, the Third Circuit had expressed doubts that PHH was “fairly structured to carry out the functions of road maintenance and the setting of fees and collection.” Before “entitling” PHH, the Third Circuit gave PHH 60 days to amend its bylaws. To insure compliance, the court maintained control over PHH indefinitely.

This is the supervision OLCA requires now.

Significant Consequences

OLCA has taken lot owners to court twice. Both times the Third Circuit chose to “entitle” OLCA to manage the roadways in Orchidland.

The court did not find any problems with the OLCA bylaws and it did not require amendments. Nevertheless, in 2014 a rumor spread among the active lot owners that OLCA bylaws did not comply with the Hawaii Nonprofit Corporations Act.

According to this rumor, the bylaws, approved on two occasions by the Third Circuit, were illegal. And in order to bring OLCA into compliance with Hawaii law, there was not enough time to follow the procedure in the bylaws.

On Nov. 16, 2014, OLCA did change its bylaws. And it did not follow the procedure required in those bylaws. And the consequences have been significant. The breach has left Orchidland confused and split between two factions.

Both hold monthly meetings; both send out newsletters; both maintain internet presence; both bill for road maintenance; and both claim to be “entitled” to manage Orchidland roads. The court allows one faction access to bank accounts but has yet to designate the faction that is actually “entitled.”

I have sued OLCA for breach of the contract constructed for us by our Supreme Court and our own Third Circuit. To be more precise, I am suing for the Third Circuit to supervise its agent, OLCA.

Again, on Feb. 21, the Third Circuit confirmed its opinion that I had no legal right to complain, as an individual property owner, about any action taken by OLCA.

“The breach has left Orchidland confused and split between two factions.”

If a property owner in Orchidland has no right to complain to the Third Circuit about a breach of the court’s arrangement, then to whom does he or she complain? Perhaps the state Legislature?

Ironically, it was the very next day, Feb. 22, that the Hawaii House expressed itself on the quality of the judicial system’s oversight of substandard subdivisions. In HB 288 our representatives provide an adequate description of our plight, but the bill did not pass.

So, what is to be done?

Near the end of Section 1 in the bill, the House considers the role of county government in the tumble:

The legislature believes that, because the counties approve housing subdivisions and collect real property taxes from the owners in those subdivisions, it is appropriate that counties establish rules and procedures for, conduct audits of, and act as an oversight agency of the housing subdivisions or be required to maintain and repair the infrastructure of the housing subdivisions.

Hawaii County’s responsibilities are clear.

And when Hawaii County has met these responsibilities, I will pay road fees to OLCA or to any other association in Orchidland that has our county’s support and supervision.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author