Hawaii Kai project draws ire
Developers want to build 180 cabins on a parcel surrounded by conservation land
Veterans of past battles to block development on Oahu's Ka Iwi Coast are "reactivating" to join other Hawaii Kai residents in fighting 180 proposed vacation cabins on mauka preservation land.
Dave Matthews and Phil Estermann, key players in the Save Sandy Beach Coalition in the 1980s, are joining with the nonprofit Liveable Hawaii Kai Hui and other East Honolulu residents against the project.
The two were among more than 200 people last week at a Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board meeting, objecting to developer QRM's plans for clusters of 800-square-foot cabins with "unobstructed ocean and mountain views."
QRM development director Aaron Eberhardt said in a news release about the project that it would meet the "demand for increased recreational opportunities for a growing portion of East Honolulu" by offering hiking, mountain biking, rock-climbing, swimming, tennis, volleyball, golf, horseback-riding, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving to visitors.
Queen's Rise Recreation Center would be built on a 98-acre parcel of land surrounded by conservation land, while the Mauuwai Recreational Center would be on 83 acres mauka of the Hawaii Kai Golf Course, the release said.
But Eberhardt didn't have answers for most of the questions residents asked him at Tuesday's meeting, neighborhood board member Dolores Elms-Beattie said.
"His presentation was pretty lame," she said. "He didn't have a traffic study or an environmental impact study and he was quoting from a cultural study 10 years old."
Eberhardt didn't respond to requests for comment last week through the public relations firm that issued the release or phone messages.
Estermann said the developers are "trying to turn the land use ordinance upside down" by seeking one cabin per acre of land under the city's preservation zoning. "These guys have proposed a kind of resort with vacation cabins."
One reason people are concerned about the project is that the city Department Planning and Permitting could approve the cabins without a public hearing, said Elizabeth Reilly, a neighborhood board member and spokeswoman for Liveable Hawaii Kai Hui.
"This isn't about stopping development," Reilly said. "It's about protecting the scenic value of that coastline."
Another concern is that, if approved, the development could set a precedent for preservation land development, said Gary Weller, a Kamilonui Valley entrepreneur and farmer. The allowance for one cabin per acre was "originally designed for something like Boy and Girl Scout camps," he said. "It was never intended to be what they're trying to turn it into."
Matthews said that when he learned last week of the development proposal, "I was shocked, totally shocked."
"I would have thought we would have stopped it," he said, referring to the Save Sandy Beach's 14-year struggle to halt planned development on the makai land between Sandy Beach and Makapuu.
"The infrastructure -- roads, sewage, everything -- would cost millions of dollars," Matthews said.