- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - A Big Island nonprofit organization dedicated to culture and arts-enrichment programs has been fined $53,743 for removing protected trees and building illegal structures on state land.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday fined the Village Green Society and Hawaii’s Volcano Circus near Pahoa, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (https://bit.ly/YMRzv4) reported.

Investigators said structures were built on a portion of a 59-acre parcel of state land next to the Village Green Society’s Bellyacres community in Kalapana Seaview Estates.

The organizations were ordered to remove eight cabins and a horse corral within 90 days.

The circus operates the Seaview Performing Arts Center for Education on society property. The Department of Land and Natural Resources named both organizations in its enforcement action and called the society a nonprofit organization “whose purpose is to hold title to land, collect income therefrom and turn over funds to the HVC.”

Hawaii’s Volcano Circus chairman Graham Ellis said Monday the performing arts group did not build the structures that the state board declared illegal. Ellis is the corporation secretary for Village Green Society, but he said he could not comment on its behalf.

The circus does not have money for the fine, he said.

“The (circus) is broke right now,” Ellis said. “It’s not going to be paying any fines if that’s the reality.”

The groups have been at odds with the state board in the past.

Hawaii’s Volcano Circus in 2010 applied to lease the state land. The Department of Land and Natural Resources found bungalow-style buildings on the property. Ellis told the department in January 2011 that the structures had been removed, according to the department

“During the subsequent inspection . Mr. Ellis pointed out several locations where structures had been removed and assured staff that all structures on state land were gone,” department staff wrote in a memo to the board.

An inspection in May found the cabins and state land cleared of ohia trees for the corral.

Complaints by three neighbors triggered the recent inspection.

Hawaii’s Volcano Circus first applied to lease the state parcel in 1997 for educational and recreational uses, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. A lease request was not taken to the board.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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