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Permitless tree removal angers neighbors

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    Dr. Raymond Kang, who recently bought a property within the Punchbowl Historic District that contains the historic Tennent Art Foundation Gallery, is facing an investigation by the city for cutting down dozens of trees on the site. Only one tree remains standing out of 50; other trees that were cut down can be seen in the background as well as to the right of the gate.

The city is investigating after canopy trees were cut down at the Tennent Art Foundation Gallery, which has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places and is within the Punchbowl Special District.

George Atta, director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, wrote in an email to the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser on Friday that "the removal of trees with a trunk diameter of 6 inches or greater along Prospect Street requires a Punchbowl Special District Permit. Our records show that no such permit has been issued for that property. The DPP files also show the presence of an exceptional tree at 203 Prospect St. (the gallery’s address).

"The DPP will send an inspector to the site and cannot comment until the investigation is complete."

The property is owned by Dr. Raymond Kang.

"We’re just cutting trees," Kang told the Star-Advertiser. When contacted, Kang said he was driving and could not talk on his cellphone, then hung up. He did not respond to follow-up phone calls or texts.

One of Kang’s neighbors filed a complaint Friday with the Department of Planning and Permitting alleging that Kang had improperly cut down about 50 trees at the property, which contains the former home of legendary painter Madge Tennent, who died in 1972. Tennent’s works often featured Native Hawaiians and hung in galleries from the Hono­lulu Museum of Art to the de Young Museum in San Francisco to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Tennent’s two-story, 4,144-square-foot home on Prospect Street was later turned into the Tennent Art Foundation Gallery and has been nominated to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Property records show that on March 28, Kang, as trustee of the trust that bears his name, bought the two adjoining parcels at 202 and 203 Prospect St. from Hawaii Preparatory Academy for $1.6 million.

Records show that the property is within the Punchbowl Special District. Under the heading of "lot restrictions," property records note the inclusion of an "exceptional tree," which is protected by the city.

Betty Gearen, executive director of the The Green House sustainability program, said she was appalled when she saw the trees that had been cut down this week. "It used to be a tree-covered canopy," she said. "Now almost all of the trees are gone, and a lot of the land is being cleared. They don’t have a permit for that."

Gearen has been calling everyone from Gov. David Ige’s office to The Outdoor Circle to the state arborist to complain.

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