(BIVN) – Public access is coming to the shoreline of a resort-area in Kaʻupulehu, developers promised, as a Hawaiʻi County Council committee voted in support of a bill granting a project extension.
In October 2018, the Leeward Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation to a request by KDA Acquisition LLLP and Hualalai Investors LLP to accept an “overall status report”, as required by a Kaʻupulehu Project District condition. The commission also approved granting a 20-year time extension to develop a resort-residential community located between the 87 and 84 mile markers of the Queen Kaʻahumanu Highway.
The Leeward Planning Commission also requested “that the County Council evaluate the public access condition (Condition S) to determine if implementation of the public access plan can be triggered prior to the opening of the golf course to a more publicly beneficial time period.” Developers say the required State Historic Preservation Division review has slowed the process.
The matter, as Bill 1, went before the Council Planning Committee at its January 8 meeting in Hilo.
“Even though there are some special circumstances where shoreline access is allowed to others, besides Kaʻupulehu property owners and guests, it’s not enough,” said Kona resident Janice Palma-Glennie, testifying during the council committee meeting by videoconference. “It’s good that Hawaiian practitioners have some access. It’s great that some organized group of keiki can have limited access. And it’s pono that public access exists to at least some limited extent through adjacent properties. But it’s not good that a promise to the public is being circumvented at the public’s untold expense of losing a huge chunk of coastal open space, while this private development continues to expand.”
“The broader local community needs a quick resolution to this situation,” Palma-Glennie said. “Whether it’s in the form of an amendment to the development permit – or any other approach – that will force the hand of requisite entities and get them on board to allow immediate, public access through this property. We hope that the process of opening true public access has now begun, today. And that it will reach fruition this year, not another five, ten, or twenty years in the future.”
“We’re very pleased to report the January 7th, 2019 letter from the State Historic Preservation (SHPD) division,” said Carlsmith Ball partner Steve Lim on behalf of the developers, “which essentially approved the preservation plan for lots 4-A and 4-B. This SHPD approval was the last remaining formal hurdle before the applicants can commence the final planning and implementation of the public access plan.”
“What we expect to happen now,” Lim continued, “is that the Kaʻupulehu development team is going to compare the approved preservation plan with the integrated resources management plan and all the other our cultural and archaeological studies. There’s a burial treatment plan also for this area. And to make sure that all of the cultural and historical aspects are addressed in the alignment of the actual corridor for the public access.”
“As you know, this area is a pretty dangerous shoreline area,” Lim told the council. “There’s no sand beaches, and some rocky cliff areas, and so the other element – in addition to the cultural and natural resource preservation elements – is the safety element. We’re working with the applicants to design appropriate warning signs for the park. So all of those things will be collated into a report to the Planning Department for their review and approval. Once the improvements are all in place, we’ll have the Planning Department come out and authorize us to open up the public access.”
“We anticipate – and I think the developer is willing to make a commitment – that they will open [public access] no later than twelve months from the effective date of this action by the council,” Lim said. “We think we can do it sooner, but barring any significant hang-ups we think we can do that within the 12 months. So we’re willing to make that commitment for the record, today.”
“Councilmember [Maile] David and I were very much involved 22 years ago,” said Kona councilwoman Karen Eoff. “The result of that Land Use Commission decision – which actually went to this Supreme Court – came back and is sort of what we see here. The result of the decision from the court made a very clear mandate for the developer to include a detailed preservation plan, cultural resource monitoring plan, and plans for public access, etc, etc.”
“The Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the continuation of the protected rights of the Native Hawaiians to access and gather, basically started with your development,” noted Councilwoman Maile David. “We’re thankful about that, because we came a long way.”
The council committee voted to advance the bill to full council with a positive recommendation.