Brush fire reignites problems at former Wahiawa chop shop location

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The brush fire that burned 50 acres near Whitmore Village on Monday reignites the ongoing problem of illegal activity there. According to one official, it boils down to faulty land management.

Fires, junked cars, a chop shop and homeless encampments. The land across Poamoho Camp in Wahiawa has been a hub for illegal activity for years.

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“We’ve been reporting it all this time,” said Boyd Isnec, Poamoho Camp Association president. “[Police] say they cannot do nothing unless you know we catch him in the act.”

After a 30-year-old woman was killed there in 2020, police swept the area, arresting three people. They blocked it off and even hired security.

“They still sneak in,” Poamoho resident Alfanso Pasu said. “They move the boulders, go right in for a drive over the hill — that’s not gonna stop them.”

The Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) manages the land. After the sting, they received $600,000 to clear it.

In a statement the ADC said: “The removal of the remaining abandoned vehicles and clean-up of our property is still ongoing. We have removed 150 vehicles in the past year and have accelerated our plans to procure services to remove the remaining vehicles. The majority of our farmable acres in Wahiawa are free of trash and vehicles and are being prepped for agricultural production.”

According to Rep. Amy Perruso (D), an audit of the ADC identified concerns, and an investigatory committee is continuing to look into things.

“The ADC the Agribusiness Development Corporation is still managing those lands, and they were never set up to manage lands. They were set up to develop the land, so that they could be used for commercial farming,” Perruso explained.

A resevoir is built, and ADC said they are ready to select tenants. But Perruso said that may not fix things.

“I think the big and very dangerous assumption here is that when those farmers take that land over, the problem will be solved. Those farmers will just be licensees, right, the land still belongs to the state.”

She said if ADC continues to be in charge, we’ll see “similar patterns of behavior and similar failures to manage that land.”

The only way to change things is for another agency to manage things, according to Perruso.

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The ADC statement said: “Our ADC Board of Directors at their regularly scheduled meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 29) are set to select tenants so they can begin occupying the remaining vacant land in Wahiawa. If approved, we plan to issue rights of entry to the selected tenants so they can begin occupying the remaining 1,000-acres of our property.”

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