If the State Land Use Commission (LUC) hadn’t reclassified Kohanaiki (“Pine Trees”) out of its former Conservation status for resort and urban development, the community wouldn’t have had to fight for 20 years to secure access and a shoreline public park there. In fact, without its resale value continually increased by government-added entitlements and speculative purchases, Kohanaiki’s 500 acres may well have been saved from bulldozing and now set aside as public, open space (as it should have been). Add that to the enlarging Hokulia and Palamanui debacles (and next door Shores of Kohanaiki’s hulking shell) and a slower economy, and it seems there’s a pretty significant lesson here for the LUC as it makes its decision whether or not to reclassify `O`oma for more urban development.
`O`oma Beachside Villages LLC development plan may look good on paper, but it won’t on Kona’s diminishing coastal, Conservation land. As for the real estate and construction industry’s worn-out and, frankly, sickenly repetitious claims that more approvals of grandiose development will provide needed jobs… more than 7,000 building permits are already on the books in the North Kona district alone with potential to start building today if anyone wanted to. Construction jobs aren’t lacking due to too little urban zoned land or County generosity in handing out building permits. In fact, Kona’s economy and infrastructure are helter-skelter at least partly due to a history of poor decision-making by both government leaders and greed-driven investors pushing too much development. That short-sightedness includes rezoning and allocating land for haphazardly-located, unplanned-for, mega-projects, accompanied by false hopes and promises given to construction workers and investors.
Now that the County is legally bound to uphold an integrated, long-range, regional plan (the Kona Community Development Plan), there’s no excuse for accepting the fudged need or false claims of appropriateness of “anything, anytime goes” projects, like `O`oma. Unfortunately, the Kenoi administration has thrown its dated, “all development is good” hat into the fray, proclaiming the `O`oma development plan to be more mana from heaven. But both they, and the landowners, know clearly that Conservation land is unsuitable for dense, urban growth. The Kona Community Development Plan (KCDP) provides a community-driven, sustainable mapping of regional development that includes better ways to link communities with adequate infrastructure, recreational opportunities, and other services. It’s good planning to follow the KCDP guidelines, and it’s the law to do so. The KCDP’s #1 guiding principle, “Protect Kona’s natural resources and culture,” is blatantly ignored by County support for urbanizing `O`oma.
Even during the last boom, it was hard to buy into the idea that Kona needed to have seven or eight thousand building permits on the books at one time. With intensely lagging infrastructure and build-out of earlier permitted projects not happening, there’s even less rational justification for adding an approximate 20% increase to that number (which is what `O`oma’s proposed 1000-plus residential and commercial spaces would do). And no matter the pretty promises of roads, schools, ad nauseum, anyone who lives here knows that Kona’s infrastructure, as well as natural, cultural, social and recreational resources have already been compromised without adding even one more building, no less a mega-development, to the mix.
Coastal `O`oma is made up of two parcels owned by a group of morphing investors. Those investors currently have entitlement to build on their mauka 80 acres (bordered by Queen Ka`ahuman Highway) of the total 300 acres. This land use battle would likely ease if 1) the landowners dropped their request to change the classification to Urban and 2) the LUC would vote – for a third time – to protect the Conservation status of the 200 makai acres. If that happened, the community, landowners and government would be on the way to a win-win compromise, instead of fighting for a few more decades. All parties could start directing their energy toward finding a permanent solution to living in harmony on and around that treasured coastal land without destroying coastal resources, the economy, and the community that depends upon the existence of adequate natural open space for its long-term well-being.
If, unlike the County, you’ve gotten the lesson that sensible development doesn’t include bulldozing coastal, Conservation land to build a small city, then please let the “powers that be” know how you feel about saving what’s left of Kona’s Conservation-protected lands. No decision will be rendered until all parties to the case are heard, so you can send testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org haven’t testified in person or were unable to attend the May 5th hearing. And please stay tuned for confirmation of the next hearing which is slated to be held in June in Kona. We need to keep the pressure on for the LUC to vote in favor of protecting `O`oma.